Jamon and Arugula Salad
Arugula and Hazelnuts
Looking through “Spain and the World Table” a great photo caught my eye. It went with a recipe for Jamon and Arugula Salad. The salad includes one of my favorite ingredients, arugula. It also calls for hazelnuts, a product that is grown locally in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, according to the Hazelnut Council, the USA is one of the world's leading hazelnut producers and "more than 99 percent of domestic hazelnuts are grown in the Willamette Valley, outside of Portland, Oregon."
I found that fascinating. Apparently the relatively mild winter temperatures in this region allow Oregon to rival sultry Spain in the production of these tasty nuts. Thinking that I might find more interesting ideas for using ingredients local to the Pacific Northwest, I continued to browse through this new cookbook. Quite a few of the recipes call for hazelnuts. It seems that hazelnuts are almost as popular in Spanish cooking as almonds. I never knew that!
A number of the recipes also call for Spanish blue cheese. Actually, this one calls for Cabrales but, unfortunately, I couldn't find it. I used another Spanish blue cheese, Valdeon. I was able to find this interesting cheese at Wild Oats. It is made from a mixture of cow and goat's milk and is wrapped in Sycamore leaves. Still another local product comes to mind and I wonder if it might not be even better to substitute an Oregon-made blue cheese from Rogue Creamery. "Oregon Blue" is award winning and is actually smoked over Northwest-grown hazelnut shells. It is so good that it has been paired with chocolate and made into an inspired and award winning truffle, by Lillie Belle Farms in southern Oregon. Any of these blue cheese would be delicious on the salad and would complement the flavor of...
Serrano ham. Well ham anyway. Again I couldn't find Serrano ham in a local market but prosciutto is readily available so I used it instead. A slightly drier ham might be better as a substitution. I think a thin slice of Kentucky Country Ham would also be excellent in this salad. But the prosciutto was a fine substitute in taste and appearance.
So search out and use authentic Spanish ingredients if you like, or simply use the inspiration of Spanish cuisine to spark the exploration of great local products. Either way, enjoy the adventure!
Jamon and Arugula Salad
(from Spain and the World Table)
1/4 cup hazelnut paste (or hazelnut butter)
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
large pinch freshly ground black pepper
8 cups arugula
8 slices (about 7 oz.) Serrano ham (or prosciutto or country ham)
1/2 cup crumbled Cabrales (or other blue cheese)
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
To make dressing, whisk together hazelnut paste or butter, vinegar, shallots, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Arrange a slice of ham or prosciutto on each plate and top with approximately 1 cup of the arugula. Top each salad with one tablespoon of the crumbled blue cheese and one tablespoon of the toasted hazelnuts.
Makes 8 servings.
Notes: I could not find hazelnut paste in any local markets. I did find a place where you could order it, L'Epicerie, but I didn’t want to wait and was interested in cutting expenses. I decided to use hazelnut butter instead. I had already purchased a jar of Kettle Hazelnut Butter, which is produced in Salem, Oregon, for another recipe anyway. I’m not sure what the difference is between hazelnut butter and hazelnut paste but I enjoyed the taste of the dressing I made.
Next time I make this I think I will candy the hazelnuts added to the salad. This can be done by melting one tablespoon of butter in a small skillet. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and mix well. Add hazelnuts and stir over medium low heat until the mixture starts to gently brown. Set skillet aside until sugar firms up.
Or try this method from My Recipes. Toss 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts with 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons egg white and 1/8 teaspoon salt. When the hazelnuts are well coated turn them out on a baking sheet prepared with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.
I might also serve this salad with sliced pears, figs or other fruit.