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.
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
- 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.