Weeknight Cooking

One Batch of Gremolata, Six Dinners

December  3, 2012

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: Why use a gremolata just once? Phyllis from Dash and Bella raises the bar, times six. 

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The Monday before Thanksgiving, my mother calls to ask if I would host. I tell her I will totally do Thanksgiving as long as she is cool with me serving pulled pork and a cabbage salad with gremolata.

And so it begins: our week of putting gremolata and pesto into everything but the pumpkin pie.

In exploring the continuum that starts at traditional gremolata and ends at my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pesto, I stray from the gremolata grid a bit (see exactly how in the full recipe here). I freeze half, then I expand the remains with parmesan, almonds, and goat cheese to make nutty, creamy pesto. This too ends up in my freezer, portioned out in an ice cube tray for easy pesto-pellet access throughout the week.

For seven days, as needed, I pull out and thaw these icy green popsicles to top grilled meat, fill omelettes, jazz up mayonnaise, marinate fish, and dilute into salad dressings. I find that my gremolata accessorizes nicely by brightening and complementing other ingredients; while my pesto -- a much richer choice -- coats, dominates, and even transforms dishes.

Here are the highlights: 

Pesto Potato Pancakes 
Peel and boil Yukon gold potatoes and mash them with crème fraîche, salt, and butter. (My children gently swirl pesto through the warm potatoes and then they are off to the sibling rivalry races with "you scratched me, no you punched me, you know I wish you’d never been born" and I send them to bed without dinner.) If this happens to you too, make yourself a solo comfort dinner by mixing the potatoes with a whisked egg and a few tablespoons of flour. The patties are super sticky and unwieldy but once the exterior sizzles into a brown-butter crust, they are easy to flip. And then pass the crème fraîche.

White Bean Gremolata Toasts with Toasted Almonds 
My husband and I sit down to this as our last quiet meal before the Thanksgiving insanity hits -- but you can (and should) make this anytime. Pile grilled baguette slices high with white beans drenched in gremolata and sprinkle them with parsley, toasted almonds, and coarse salt. Eat right off the cutting board, preferably with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dripping down your chins. 

Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Pesto 
Next day: halve, salt, and caramelize Brussels sprouts in brown butter and then throw them into the oven until just tender. (I learn that if you coat these little cruciferous nuggets with pesto while they’re still warm, they will soak up the green goodness like they haven’t eaten for days.) These leftovers make a lovely breakfast, topped with poached eggs, crème fraîche, and Sriracha.

Cabbage and Radish Slaw with Cilantro Gremolata 
Thursday’s wackadoodle Thanksgiving chez moi is so much fun. And oh this salad, this salad, this freaking salad. Coat sliced cabbage with gremolata, mashed garlic confit, and ½ cup chopped cilantro, and top it with mandolined radishes. Tuck bunches of the crunchy mix into warm tortillas along with gooey pulled pork. Then ooh. And aah. 

Lemony Fall Vegetables with Gremolata 
By Friday, the let’s-have-fun-with-the-green-stuff adventure starts wearing thin with the kids. I get an "are you kidding me mama with all these vegetables?" I forge on: slice up some Brussels sprouts and turnips and toss them with lemon, thyme, garlic, and gremolata. The little monsters eat their words and oh my goodness look at that -- they eat their gremolata-fied fall vegetables along with their day-late Thanksgiving turkey.

Spaghetti with Pesto
On Saturday, my son does the honors of a simple toss for a spontaneous pasta lunch ("mama, come on now, more pasta water, more cheese, more salt"). Darn good. 

Grilled Lamb Chops with Pesto and Lemon 
By now, like me, you'll probably need some red meat and some red wine. Grill up chops, dollop each with pesto, give each a squeeze of lemon. 

Making an everlasting gremolata isn't easy. After a week of six inspired dinners -- but not without the help of a trusty photo assistant -- catching up on reading (and sleep) is in order. 

Winter Greens Gremolata and Pesto by dashandbella 

Makes 2 cups 

1 bunch arugula
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch dinosaur kale
1 tablespoon kosher salt, for the blanching water
6 anchovy fillets
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons capers (drained of brine)
2 teaspoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Phyllis Grant

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Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Seven S. December 30, 2012
Gremolata is very much the under appreciated basil pesto. Just as flavourful and flexible and this recipe is genious!
Elycooks December 9, 2012
Love the picture of your bare chested son tossing the pasta!
What veggies are you roasting? I see brussel sprouts and what? Potatoes? Turnips? And lemon wedges? Do tell - looks wonderful.
Phyllis G. December 9, 2012
turnips, brussels sprouts, potatoes, garlic, lemon, thyme, rosemary, salt, bacon fat, olive oil, salt , pepper, gremolata. roasted high heat until tender and caramelized. yum.
Miachel P. December 3, 2012
What a brilliant idea, portioning out the pesto into ice cube trays. :)

And that cabbage slaw sounds delish!
Phyllis G. December 5, 2012
works so well in the ice cube trays. then so easy to pop them into a ziploc for a few months if needed. and yes. cabbage slaw is super tasty. i'm a recent convert to cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. what was wrong with me all of those years?
JuliaB December 3, 2012
Exactly how I feel about pesto. I make a batch on the weekend and use in similar ways - I stir it through eggs to make aromatic green scrambled eggs; a dollop in soup; the best sandwich spread; and always save some for pasta.
Kenzi W. December 3, 2012
And we can't forget the skills of her professional spaghetti-tosser. I imagine that's quite a key element.
Phyllis G. December 5, 2012
couldn't do it without him.
yummy S. December 3, 2012
What a super mama. Who else could whip up all of that green goodness in the midst of Thanksgiving madness? Phyllis you rock! Now I gotta make some gremolata....
Phyllis G. December 5, 2012
it was insane in the membrane (i do hope you know that song!).
fiveandspice December 3, 2012
Wow. Gremolata never looked so good!
Kenzi W. December 3, 2012
Aaand making a greenmarket list now.
em-i-lis December 3, 2012