Celery & Mint Gremolata


It’s daunting to host your first dinner party in a new home, let alone a new country, so this week marks something of a milestone for me. First dinner for guests (well lunch anyway) under my belt. 

There’s a rule about never making a new recipe for your guests, but either because I’m arrogant or like the challenge, I ended up making a couple of things I’ve never made before. Consulting Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen, I modified a recipe for marinated aubergines, which I served alongside a lamb ragu. For that recipe, you should consult Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Everyday Italian Cooking, which is where I learned a basic ragu and have been making iterations of it ever since. 

Because this Southerner always finds ways to incorporate the South into my cooking, I married the sauce to a simple milk-based grits (kin to polenta), which I topped with a celery leaf and mint gremolata. The green flourish was entirely of my own, so I’ll share that recipe with you. While it pairs particularly well with lamb, consider it a nice contrast in flavors for any roasted meat dish.

We finished the meal with a pear crumble, subbing the standard pear for an Asian variety gifted to my husband from a student. Here, children offer the globe-like Asian pears in lieu of apples for Teacher’s Day. My palate has changed since moving to Vietnam, so I reduced the sugar, and added some cinnamon to the cream Chantilly to complete the vision. 

May this recipe inspire you to get creative with the tiny bits you find in your refrigerator!


2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped

2 tablespoons celery leaves and tender fronds, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon, zested

1 tablespoon olive oil

Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste



  1. Combine finely chopped mint and celery leaf, and zest with olive oil.  
  2. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. 
  3. Serve atop grilled or roasted meats or vegetables. 

Makes enough for about 6 garnishes.  

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