Gremolata: Green stuff the kids might not like, but that’s O.K.

My son will eat anything as long as it doesn’t have flecks of green on it. Broccoli is fine but if it’s tossed into chicken soup such that little green globules attach themselves to the carrots, then neither the carrots, the broccoli, nor anything else in the soup gets eaten.

This goes for all green flecks. For awhile, I avoided herbs entirely because using them meant having to rinse off all his food before he’d eat it.

Then I began using a bouquet garnis wrapped in cheese cloth for soups, stews and sauces. This imparts a delicate herbal flavor which even little J likes (i.e., he doesn’t use the work “yucky” in its presence).

But I started to miss robust herbal flavors and wanted a way to add them without instigating a tantrum.

One afternoon while ossobucco simmered in the oven (head to One for the Table for a glorious recipe), I excitedly remembered that the traditional chopped herb and garlic accompaniment wouldn’t have to be skipped since it is added at the table. We could have green stuff on our veal and our son could choose whether he wanted to join us or not (guess what he chose).

The gremolata solution was born. Now I regularly chop up an herb, garlic and citrus zest mixture for us to sprinkle into our bowls of soup or stew, over rice, roasted potatoes, pasta and sauce, vegetables of all kinds, and even over meat and fish. I often make a cilantro-based version with a bit of cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, oil and onion to sprinkle over seared white fish and approximate the flavors of chermoula. (Dinners and Dreams has a nice more traditional marinade-style chermoula here.)  A few chopped up capers often hang out in this mix too.

Here’s an even simpler cilantro version that is wonderful sprinkled over dirty rice. For the dirty rice, follow a recipe like this one from Dine and Dish or just mix together (gently with a fork) hot cooked rice, canned black beans (drained and then warmed in the microwave) and chili powder to taste. Smoked paprika and cumin love being in there too.

Cilantro-Orange Gremolata

Makes 1/2 cup, enough for 3-4 people

Got leftovers? Mix in a bit of olive oil and store in a sealed container for a day or two or in the freezer for much longer.

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 tsp grated orange rind

a sprinkle of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Allow everyone to sprinkle a bit onto their meal, if they’re o.k. with adding some green to their food.

But warn everyone: Gremolata is potent stuff.  A little goes a long way. Too much can overpower. Add a little bit, stir it in, taste. Add more if you want or stop there.


Check out the other post in my Series: Kid-Friendly Fare with Adult-Friendly Flare:


  1. #1 by The Mrs on March 31, 2011 - 1:18 pm

    This is fantastic! Not for Miss, who will eat anything, but for Mr, who HATES cilantro (I *may* have mentioned this before). Great solution!

    • #2 by cookthestory on March 31, 2011 - 2:29 pm

      Thanks! Happy to help. Lucky you having a Miss who will eat anything. J will eat most things if they’re not touching each other and are not contaminated by flecks. But some days he turns his nose up at things and other days he wolfs them down. It’s a constant guessing game. He’s a little butterball though so I tend to not worry about it too much.

  2. #3 by Dani on April 2, 2011 - 1:30 pm

    This reminds me of when my eldest was a toddler, and she had the exact same issue. I can so remember rinsing her food off to get the bits of green out. She was otherwise a totally non-picky eater, but anything with bits of green in it she would push away with great disdain and a cry of “it has GREEN FINGS!” We still tease her about “green fings” years later. 🙂 The gremolata looks great.

  3. #4 by Katerina on April 2, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    I guess all kids are the same everywhere in the world. This is something my son wouldn’t eat at all but I love it!

  1. When Kid-Friendly Fare Needs Adult-Friendly Flare « Cook the Story

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