Spain and Gremolata

By Julie

When I lived in Madrid in my twenties, I took a trip to the south of Spain with my sister to a tiny village that the chef at my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Madrid recommended. He scribbled the name and number of the Señora whom we were to rent a casita from on a napkin, and sent us on our way. The directions he gave us were phrased in a way that involved landmarks like a certain almond tree, lemon grove, or statue. I hoped that I translated it all correctly, but was a still bit anxious that we’d never find this magical place he had been raving about for months.

After driving for hours on winding roads through the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, we finally arrived late at night. The señora showed us the casita and handed us a gigantic bag of oranges and lemons. Hmm, I thought–that’s interesting. It wasn’t a surprise, though, when we awoke the next morning only to discover that the casita was surrounded by orange and lemon trees, free for us to enjoy as much as we could! That trip seemed to be full of ripe and juicy citrus in sangria and tapas or just peeled and eaten on hikes and at the beach.

When I squeeze or grate fresh citrus into my food these days, my mind goes a bit back to that mysterious nameless Andalusian place, and I’m reminded by how much you can do with a simple zest of citrus and how it can brighten up any food.

We Soup Club ladies love making pesto with plenty of bright lemon juice to stir generously into soups, but a delicious and easy to make alternative is it’s dairy-free cousin, Gremolata. Though Gremolata traditionally consists of a blend of lemon zest, garlic and chopped parsley, you can use any citrus zest along with any herbs that appeal.

Some gremolata combinations I enjoy are:

  • Cilantro and lime to stir into a coconut curry or black bean soup
  • Oregano and lemon to top tomato soup with
  • Chive and orange to brighten up a creamy parsnip puree

What are your favorite combinations of citrus and herbs?  And what do you like mixing them into? Share below!