Arugula & Fregola Salad w/ Shiitakes

It has been a long tradition in my family: every Sunday is family day.  We all gather mid afternoon by the beach, and every week usually involves the same things: guacamole, tabloids/fashion magazines, margaritas, mah jong, laptops/work, strange western movies my Uncle watches, wine, and conversation. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all creatures of habit.

So yesterday, I sat at the table and all of the sudden my Aunt came in with a giant box.  “This is your housewarming gift.  Sorry it’s so late, it was shipped from the Phillipines.  Don’t let it snag your sweater.”

She bought me a GINORMOUS piece of coral!  From the Phillipines!  Apparently, the store it came from gets weekly shipments but constantly sell out.


Truth be told, I actually moved a while ago and have virtually nothing in my kitchen.  This salad is something that I can make with my cast iron skillet and one sauce pan- I’ve had it a few times in the last month alone.


I love making dishes that are all-in-ones.  Part salad.  Part pasta.  A little cheese.  Yes.

shiitakes and fregula

Gently toss with arugula...

arugula and fregula salad

My desk w/ new coral from the Phillipines:

coral on desk

INGREDIENTS: (makes 2 appetizer portions)

  • 2 large handfuls of wild arugula
  • ½ cup fregola
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 medium shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced ¼”
  • zest of 1 lemon (about 1 t.)
  • 2 t. lemon juice
  • 2 t. white balsamic
  • 3 tbsp. parmesan, grated on microplane (loosely packed)
  • kosher salt & pepper to taste

For the fregola and shiitakes:

-Boil fregolatip1 in heavily salted water, about 15 minutes.
-Set up a small sheet tray with paper towels for draining the mushrooms.tip2
-Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil on medium-high in a sauté pan.tip3
-When oil is hot, add sliced shiitakes and season with salt and pepper.
-Sauté until golden brown on one side, stirring to quickly cook the other side.  Drain on tray.  Set aside to cool.
-Drain fregola in mesh strainer.tip4
-Cut shiitakes into ¼” pieces.tip5

To finish:

-In a large bowl, mix together the fregola, shiitakes, lemon juice, lemon zest, white balsamic and parmesan.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.tip6
-Gently mix in arugula, coating with the fregola mixture.
-Garnish with additional parmesan.

My tips:

1.  Fregola is an Italian pasta made from semolina flour.  It’s similar in look to couscous, but is toasted and has a slightly heavier consistency.
2.  Sautéing the shiitakes is a quick process.  It helps if you set up a place to put them beforehand. 3.  I used an 8” sauté pan, which required me to cook the mushrooms in 2 batches.  The trick is to not smother the pan- oxygen allows browning/crispy sides.
4.  This pasta will fall through the holes of many colanders.  Be aware of it!
5.  I like to cut the shiitakes into ¼” pieces which mimics the size of the fregola and plays on texture.  It also allows each bite to not be overpowered by the shiitakes.
6.  This is your dressing all in one.  I prefer to eat this at room temperature or slightly warm.