Today marked the first day of garden season for us. The warmer weather has birthed the daffodils, crocus and all the beauties that wait patiently underground for the caress of the sun. Soon we will be feasting on asparagus for which I am most impatient, but more importantly to me and my culinary creations is the emergence of fresh herbs.
I can almost smell the aromatic tarragon and taste the earthiness of the sage and thyme. My herb garden provides inspiration for many dishes. In addition to enhancing dishes with their brightness, I often like to make them the star. Parsley salad, basil pesto, lavender ice cream are just a few examples. In her book, The Art of Simple Food II, Alice Waters, one of my culinary mentors, has this to say, “Herbs define my cooking. They provide the freshness–aliveness, really–and the beauty, fragrance, and flavor that inspire and compel me in the kitchen.”
Today I want to focus on one of the staples in my herb garden and kitchen, parsley. It offers up a cleansing freshness (slightly peppery) and a deep green color. Although there are more than 30 varieties of this herb, the flat-leafed variety, also known as Italian parsley, is what I grow and use as it is packed with flavor. I have been known to sit and eat it by the fistful right out of the garden as it not only tastes good but is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It is said that in ancient times parsley wreaths were used to ward off drunkenness, though proof of their efficacy in that capacity is scarce.
Parsley and garlic are a match made in heaven, the freshness of the parsley is counterbalanced by the pungent spicy garlic. Gremolata, aka, gremolada (greh-moh-LAH-tah) is a garnish made of minced parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Typically a last touch for many dishes, in the recipe I am sharing today where we add a bit of chili and cilantro, it clearly takes the lead.
Here is how it unfolds:
CHILI GREMOLATA w/ ROASTED SHRIMP 4 servings
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2014
2 red Serrano or jalapeno peppers, with seeds, halved lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
½c extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 red Serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeds removed if desired, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed
¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ c flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1T grated lemon zest
1T extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Heat peppers, garlic, bay leaves, and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until just beginning to sizzle, about 2 min. Remove from heat.
- Toss the shrimp in the chili oil in a 3 quart baking dish; roast, turning halfway through until shrimp is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile mix the first six ingredients for the gremolata, taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Squeeze lemon over the shrimp and top with gremolata.
- Serve with couscous, rice, or grilled bread to sop up all the intensely flavored cooking liquid.
This versatile preparation, with or without the addition of the chili and cilantro, can be used to enhance fish, chicken, beef, lamb, pork and a variety of vegetables. Check out this recipe by Ina Garten for Green Beans Gremolata. It elevates the garden variety green bean to special dinner party status fit for a queen. So simple and full of possibilities; eliminate the lemon and you have the French, Persillade, used in a similar fashion. With the addition of the lemon it becomes Italian and taking it further adding olive oil, along with capers and salt (or anchovies), you have a Spanish version of salsa verde, a fantastic sauce to drizzle over meats, vegetables and fish. So many possibilities for deliciousness.
An easy facelift for any dish, this is a must try. I would love to hear how you took this simple herb and spread the love with your creations—one dish at a time. Coming soon, more herbal magic from my garden to your kitchen, with love.