Photo Credit: j. rosenstrach
I have been trying to make this dinner since July 1993. I know that sounds ridiculous — chicken with arugula and tomatoes seems almost too basic to be named something, let alone to have been stuck in my brain for that long, especially since my brain has seen stickier days. (I forgot to photocopy the immunization forms for camp, again!…Again!) The thing about this dish is that the first and only time I had ever eaten it happened to have been in Florence on my first and only trip to Italy. I shared it with Andy, who was studying art there for the (very hot) summer, and it was seminal in its simplicity. Not a single extraneous anything — just the highest quality chicken, arugula, and tomatoes and some sort of bright dressing that enhanced instead of distracted from the main event. Even though I was (am) half Italian, it was probably the first time the most fundamental rule of cooking hit me: The best shortcut in the kitchen is to start with ingredients that need no help from the cook.
Of course, I was 22 in 1993 — I had no real use for shortcuts in the kitchen. Fast forward seventeen Julys — it’s 93° at 6:30, I have two hungry kids and no plan for dinner. What I do have is a bag of beautiful, fresh arugula that instantly pulls up my Florentine epiphany. And 20 minutes later, I have dinner.
Jenny Rosenstrach is a writer, editor and mom of two young girls. She writes the blog Dinner: A Love Story
What are your foreign food memories? Chime in below!