Food & Drink

The Eating of the Green

By Joan Leotta

For The Sun News

Gremolata-style dressing
Gremolata-style dressing

Although St Patrick's day has long been associated with green, the color is really more for shamrocks, clothing, and the green lush beauty of the Emerald isle itself. Traditional Irish cooking does not include much that is green. Cabbage and a few scallions in the colcannon are about the extent of it. My obsession with adding green to the plate on this most festive day

began a few years ago when my husband had to travel to Hilton Head and ended up celebrating there with his sister. I was not in the mood to head to Flynn's Irish Tavern on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach with friends (my go-to spot on St Patrick's day) so I decided to stay home and honor the Roman soldier side (his father is reputed to have been one) by making pasta. Rummaging in my pantry, I discovered a box of spinach spaghetti, so I ate green---green spaghetti with parmesan cheese and a little oil and butter. Delicious!

Then my wheels began to turn. After all, just because the holiday comes too early in Ireland for much green on the plate. Greens are important to our overall health and unless you have a condition that mandates cutting back on vitamin k, that vitamin and the many others that come in all manner of green things are quite good for health. The "Vegetarian Nutrition" site credits greens as useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. The site notes that greens are low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, and more. (

Several Irish food sites recommended "greening" colcannon (a mashed potato dish) by adding green cabbage leaves or kale and more butter to the dish. Local restaurant owner, Marty Flynn makes his the traditional way—with scallions providing the green. Although he does not make all of these dishes every day, he will have colcannon, corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash and all of the other best-known dishes on both Parade Day and St Patrick's Day itself.

For packing in more greens on St Patrick's special day, if green pasta is not your thing. I took a cue from Marty and the food sites and worked on adding greens to salmon and codfish. Modern Irish foodies are eating more greens and more seafood, according to a review of award-winning Irish restaurants in National Geographic in 2013. Salmon was the number one seafood favorite and codfish close behind.

I developed a sautéed codfish with a gremolata-style dressing. The dressing can also be used on baked salmon. Baked salmon, however, really shines when served on a bed of spinach sautéed with garlic or garlic and ginger in a mix of olive oil and butter. Very tasty. (See cod recipe and sautéed spinach recipes below)

Of course sautéed spinach or spinach salad can be added on the side to any of the more traditional meals. Alice Osborn, a dear friend, poet (another Irish tradition!), and award winning Irish dancer and baker admitted to me that her favorite green edible for St Patrick's Day is a cupcake with green icing. That said, she contributed her favorite recipe, soda bread, to me to use in the article. The only way to make that green would be to add food coloring, the idea of which, I dislike immensely. Serve her bread along –side the greens and slather it with that wonderful Kerrygold Irish butter. Everything is better with butter—even and especially, greens. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Erin Go Braugh!

Sautéed Spinach

(to serve as a side dish with cod or as a bed underneath baked salmon.)

(serves 2)


1 ten -12 ounce bag of washed spinach

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small clove of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon ground garlic

3 Tablespoon olive oil and

1 Tablespoon butter

2 Tablespoons water


Heat oil and butter in pan

Add spinach, spices and water.

Put lid on pan, sauté for five minutes

Check. Should be done.

Sautéed Cod and Gremolata-style dressing

Ingredients for Cod

(serves 2 generously)

4 pieces (1 pound or more) fresh cod

½ cup flour

Salt and pepper to taste

4 Tablespoons olive oil


Wash cod pieces and pat dry

Mix flour with salt and pepper

Dredge cod in flour

Chill cod for thirty minutes

At end of thirty minutes, heat oil in pan and sauté cod.

Joan’s Gremolata –style Dressing

Traditionally gremolata is used to top meat or fish. I added more lemon and some olive oil to make the sauce more of a dressing and poured it over the sautéed cod (see photos). Usually it is thick; mine is thin.


½ cup parsley leaves, chopped fine

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

¼ cup lemon juice

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl using a spoon to “muddle” them together or mix in a mortar with a pestle. Let it sit about thirty minutes before using.

Spoon over the cod just before serving.

Note: Several recipes for traditional gremolata advise not making it in a food processor on the basis that it mashes the parsley too much and causes the garlic to taste more bitter. I liked making this in a bowl because it made it easier to control the viscosity. I thinned it to just the amount I wanted. If you want it thicker, more traditional, cut back a bit on the oil and lemon juice.