Gimme a lotta (gremolata)

When I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, it struck me that she’d mis-titled it. I know she was in Italy but really her culinary adventures were pretty limited to pizza marguerita and gelato. What she did do in Italy was learn to speak Italian but alas, Speak, Pray, Love would have sold far fewer copies. You see, food sells.

Food Sells - And that includes Beans

Food Sells – And that includes Beans

It was in Italy however that Liz discovered her favorite Italian phrase, “attraversiamo”. It is a word used by Italians when they are ready to cross the street and while in Italy, Ms. Gilbert found herself making random street crossings just so that she could use the word. Do you have a favorite word like that or a favorite phrase? In Germany, this summer, my favorite was “gemütlich”. Loosely translated it means comfortable and can be used to describe an old pillow or an inn.

Today, my favorite Italian word is Gremolata.

Gremolata, is an Italian condiment traditionally served with Milanese braised veal shank or Ossobucco. It is often made from a combination of garlic, parsley, and lemon peel. Although often served with veal, a quick google search will reveal all sorts of welcoming dishes such as sea food and deviled eggs. While Gremolata always includes grated lemon peel, there is considerable variation in recipes. Many include parsley and some of the authentic Milanese versions also include anchovies but there is ample room for creativity with other spices such as mint and sage.

While I don’t know what the exact translation of gremolata is, I do know that it has worked as a method of palate transition in my home. When my boys were infants, they ate any vegetable that I would spin in the food processor. All that love and smooth texture paved the way for baby food preference far beyond what I felt was acceptable or wanted to admit. Making the transition to regular vegetables was really hard from both a taste and a texture perspective. We ended up on a single track strategy of the string green bean. Enter gremolata.

Creating a mixture like this to use with a vegetable is a terrific way of dressing it up without making it unrecognizable. This recipe comes from my neighbor and terrific food blogger, Giangi.


Green Beans Gremolata

Serves 6 as a side dish
  • 1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs grated lemon zest, about 2 lemons
  • 3 Tbs flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 3 Tbs parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 2.5 Tbs good olive oil
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the green beans and blanch for 2-3 minutes until tender. Drain the beans and plunge them in a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process.

For the gremolata, toss the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan and pine nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Drain the beans and let dry. Add the beans to the pan and sauté, turning frequently until coated with olive oil and heated through. Remove from the heat, add the gremolata and toss well. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.

Say it slowly, “gre-mo-la-ta”.  There you have it, Speak, Eat, Love.

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  1. Wow! That looks good. I love beans you know…seriously love them.
    Just incase you are in mood for variation: Beans + Cumin + Red chilli powder. Awesomeness. You’ll love it.

    • Of course I would love beans with cumin and chili! I love cumin and chili on anything. It’s just that my family gets sick of the combo and this gives them some variety.

  2. Waw, that gremolata looks so tasty! Lovely ingredients in here too! I love it! x

  3. Perfect combination of ingredients! I love lemon with green beans, and the pine nuts for a bit of crunch…lovely! Thanks, Tammy!

    • Now if only I could roast pine nuts without burning them! It seems I turn my head for a second and they’re black.

  4. Thank you Tammy for your kind compliment and for sharing the Gremolata recipe.

  5. I never heard of gremolata but the recipe looks good – and I like the word! I do enjoy that citrus combination with green beans and certain other green vegetables. As for favourite words, I think about them a lot. I really started to appreciate olives more when I learned the Spanish word for them: aceituna, which in Spain is pronounced atheituna. I also like pamplemousse (French: grapefruit) and have had fun confusing Spanish albóndigas (meatballs) with abánicos (fans). All part of the holiday for me! 🙂

  6. Lisa H

     /  September 27, 2013

    Oh, that looks yummy! I will definitely try that, especially since green beans are coming back into season.
    I recently discovered the benefits of nutritional yeast. It doesn’t have the roll-off-your-tongue beauty of gremolata, but it makes up for it by being packed with B-12, protein and fiber. Sprinkling a bit on your gremolata in place of the cheese would make the dish vegan.
    Thanks for the post!

    • You know, I have it in the cupboard and forget about it. It is a good idea to make this a vegan dish.

  7. Your thoughts on Eat, Pray, Love -> Speak, Pray, Love are spot on! And those beans look fantastic.

  8. Author Jane Ward

     /  September 27, 2013

    Wonderful on any green vegetable. Yum.

  9. I love gremolata and often have it with osso bucco. I’ve never tried it on green beans but you’ve inspired me – this does look very good and I’ll be sure to give it a try xx

  10. the word gemütlich reminds me of my grandmother. She always asked us if we were comfortable before we went to sleep 🙂

  11. I think of gremolata as the Italian version of Chimichurri. Lemon, parsley, olive oil and garlic go far in sparking the fresh flavors of vegetables and meats.

  12. Tammy,
    My favorite non-English word is hyggeligt (who-glee) which is Danish for cozy, and I think of my sister-in-law’s observation that my living room in the new house is very hyggeligt.
    Unlike Frances’ little sister Gloria, who would practice with a string bean (from the book Bread and Jam for Frances), my kids still don’t have the love for green beans. I’d like to change that, and perhaps this will be the ticket.

    • hyggeligt is a terrific word! What is your favorite English word? Apparently the least favorite word in English is slacks. There was a great story on NPR about it. Use the gremolata on a lotta stuff.

  13. YUM. Genius on the pine nuts.

  14. love gremolata. and gemütlich 🙂 favourite word in my native Polish is “Bąk”. Pronounced “Boh-onk”… but a fuller “oh” sound. It’s used to describe a big, hairy-fluffy bumblebee. Cutest word to animal link ever. And it makes me want to talk about bees all day long!

    • Great word! Of course, I haven’t heard it before it sounds terrific. I’m finding gremolata as a good way to flavor many vegetables and fish.

  15. I love beans…any and all kinds. So thank you for this recipe…
    A well deserved gift…and so beautiful

  16. Perfect–just when I was growing bored with my usual green beans almondine!

  17. I remember having exactly the same problem when mine were young. This looks like the perfect compromise.What a wonderful recipe.

    • It got to the point where it was a bit embarrassing. I had a 9 year old wanting mush. Fortunately, having conquered the issue for him, I didn’t have it with the others but really, it took a painfully long time. Try the gremolata. I think you’ll enjoy it. You can use any variety of nuts.

  18. I will eat this tonight, pray that it turns out as well as your photo looks, and love eating it!

  19. Gremolata looks super tasty. I’ve never been to Italy, but I’d love to go sometime, just for the food.

    • Maybe I’ll go with you! I have been once but was on a very limited budget. I’d like to return and spend a bit more.

  20. Gremolata, as tasty as the word is exotic. I love it too, with pasta, fish or vegetables. Tarragon is a herb I use sometimes for beans.
    Gemütlich is a cosy word, I like it too.


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