Thank goodness for Cook the Books, the bi-monthly virtual foodie book club that I have the honor of co-hosting along with Rachel, The Crispy Cook and Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food. It gives me the motivation to dig into the stack of foodie books next to my bed. This month's selection is The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp. I have been in possession of a copy of this book for a few years now, but it took Jo selecting for April/May to get me to finally pick it up and dive in.
The United States of Arugula is truly a book for food geeks. It is a well-researched glimpse into the history of food and the players who took food from something basic that only filled bellies and sustained life, to the mix of art form, sport and entertainment that it is today. One part history and two parts gossip magazine--spilling fun and often juicy details about a bevy of food icons like James Beard, Julia Child, Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, etc. Of course there isn't room in the book for everyone, but it is amazing the amount of information that Kamp packs into under 400 pages, and it's done in way that keeps it light and easy to read. Smart and entertaining is an excellent combination and this both is both. Although it took a while to get there, this book is going from the floor stack to a prime spot on my foodie bookshelf.
For my Cook the Books dish, I took inspiration from the arugula in the title and from the California cuisine movement and one of its pioneers Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and a master of the salad composé or composed salad, where the ingredients are placed on top of or next to each other rather than mixed together. Rather than salad, I decided to take some favorite ingredients and place them on top of toasted baguette slices for a Strawberry, Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini. Simple to make but full of wonderful flavor and perfect for late spring.
Strawberry, Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 Toasts)
12 (1/2" thick) slices crusty baguette bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted
4 oz soft goat cheese
1 1/2 cups baby arugula leaves
6-8 fresh strawberries, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Spread goat cheese on toast slices. Top with arugula leaves and strawberry slices. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon and freshly ground black pepper.
Notes/Results: Light and lovely. The tangy goat cheese and peppery arugula work well with the small sweet Kula strawberries and the clean herbal taste of the tarragon. Although the ingredients say "California" to me, the ingredients except for the pepper were all grown or produced here in Hawaii. The strawberries and goat cheese from Maui, the bread baked by a local bakery and the arugula and tarragon grown on the North Shore. These would be great for a party or a nice warm-weather lunch. I will make them again.
The deadline for this CTB round was today. (Whoops! Oh well, it's still Monday in Hawaii) ;-) Our hostess Jo will be rounding up all the entries at the Cook the Books site soon. If you missed this round, join us for June/July, when Rachel will be hosting the foodie mystery, "Death By Darjeeling: A Tea Shop Mystery" by Laura Childs.