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All Dressed Up

October 13, 1994|FAYE LEVY

I love easy tricks for dressing up familiar foods. One tip that I learned in France is to use a fresh flavoring mixture called persillade to perk up simply cooked ingredients. A combination of minced parsley and garlic, persillade (pronounced pair-see-YAD) is used in the French kitchen to enhance cooked vegetables, fish and meat. Persillade comes from persil , the French word for parsley. Generally flat-leaf or Italian parsley is used, but persillade is also good made with curly parsley.

In Italy, I discovered a similar seasoning blend called gremolata , a mixture of garlic, parsley and grated lemon or orange zest. This lively seasoning mix is best known as a finishing touch for the classic recipe for osso buco, or veal shanks in tomato sauce.

A favorite in garlic-loving Provence, persillade often dresses up sauteed eggplant and mushrooms. Cooks in the region also stir it into cooked lentils to give them fresh color and flavor. Persillade is popular in the nearby Bordeaux area too, where a shallot sometimes replaces the garlic.

Both persillade and gremolata can provide a tasty accent to plainly cooked foods. For very little effort and only two or three ingredients, they provide a punch of flavor and color to sauteed or steamed vegetables. They lend zip to corn kernels, lima beans, canned beans or frozen mixed vegetables. I especially like the citrus flavor of gremolata as a foil for sweet cooked carrots.

When you have leftover chicken, turkey or meat, cut them into strips, heat them in a skillet or in the microwave with a little oil or broth, and finish them with either parsley-garlic mixture. Toss persillade or gremolata with plain hot cooked rice, pasta or couscous to quickly create a zesty side dish. Both seasoning blends make savory additions to any food in tomato sauce.

After you add persillade or gremolata to cooked food, heat the dish for a minute or less to take the raw edge off the garlic and to blend the flavors.

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To prepare these fresh mixtures, either chop the garlic and parsley with a knife or whir them in a food processor; a mini processor is particularly useful if you're making a half cup or less.

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This easy vegetable medley makes a good accompaniment for roast chicken.

MUSHROOMS AND ZUCCHINI WITH PERSILLADE

2 medium garlic cloves

1/2 cup parsley sprigs, rinsed and dried

3 medium zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces medium mushrooms, quartered

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

To make persillade, chop garlic in mini food processor. Add parsley and chop together.

Halve zucchini lengthwise. Halve each piece again lengthwise, then cut into 3/4- to 1-inch crosswise slices.

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet. Add mushrooms, zucchini and salt and pepper to taste. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring often, 3 minutes. Add persillade and saute 30 seconds, stirring. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

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The lemon-garlic flavoring called gremolata does wonders for plain cooked carrots, turning them into an exciting dish in no time.

CARROTS WITH GREMOLATA

1/2 teaspoon finely grated or finely chopped lemon zest

1 small garlic clove, very finely minced

2 tablespoons minced parsley

4 cups sliced carrots, of 1/8-inch-thick slices

2 teaspoons oil

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

For gremolata, combine lemon zest, garlic and parsley in small bowl. Mix thoroughly with fork. Cover and reserve at room temperature.

Place carrots in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to simmer and cook until just tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Return carrots to pan.

Just before serving, add oil to carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss briefly over low heat until hot. Add reserved liquid. Sprinkle with gremolata. Cover and cook over low heat 1 minute. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

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