I love a good osso bucco oozing with marrow, lush with fat and with the deep meat flavor of veal shanks. But as much as I love the meat, I love the gremolata topping more. Bright and lively with the spritely zip of raw, minced lemon, garlic and parsley it refreshes and enhances the whole dish.
My enchantment with gremolata has led me to experiment. I’ve mixed it with olive oil for a fast pasta sauce enlivened with some red pepper flakes and sometimes freshly made bread crumbs. I’ve sprinkled it over soups, steamed potatoes, cooked vegetables and even salads. I’ve substituted other herbs for the parsley. I even made an Asian version using garlic, lemongrass and cilantro.
One of my favorite ways to use gremolata is as a topping for a hearty root vegetable stew. Somehow the concept of root vegetables resonates with me as a good substitute for the primitive bones of osso bucco, and the gremolata works its tasty magic in a similar way, making this tomato-based stew something really special.
An aside: This was on our Valentine’s Day Menu. My husband spent the morning with me at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market here in Oakland, CA (one of my favorites), where we got all the fresh ingredients for the dish. We served the stew with wide egg noodles and some sourdough bread we bought at the farmers’ market from an artisan baker based in a former industrial district of the city. Local and global and made with lots of love, it was a swell Valentine’s treat.
Root Vegetable Stew with Gremolata
Serves 6 to 8
2 Tbsp Olive oil
Medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound, new red potatoes, sliced
4 small turnips (about ¾ pound), cut into fourths, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced into rounds
½ of small fennel bulb (white only), roughly chopped
½ tsp of Provencal seasoning
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 large can diced tomato with juice (28-32 ounces)
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1/8 tsp saffron threads
12 ounces of kale, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fennel fronds (the green feathery part from the fennel bulb above)
1 Tbsp minced lemon zest
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
Heat oil in a deep sauté pan or a large diameter pot over medium high heat. Sauté onions until golden, add garlic and sauté until lightly brown. Add potato, turnip carrot and fennel. Mix to coat in oil and sauté a few minutes. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and stir well. Add the tomatoes with juice, water or stock and the saffron. Stir well. Bring to a simmer. Cover, adjust heat and let simmer until the root vegetables just begin to soften. Add the kale, stir, return to a simmer and cover. Simmer until the kale has cooked through. Stir in the fennel fronds. Set aside. Mix the ingredients for the gremolata topping. Put stew in serving bowl. Scatter gremolata on top. Serve by itself or over wide egg noodles, polenta, rice or orzo.