Parsley – Much More Than Grass on the Plate
A cousin to celery, parsley is the most widely used herb in the world. It is available year round in most grocery stores and its vibrant flavor and texture make it an herb of choice in many different cuisines. The variety I am referring to is the large flat-leaf parsley, often called Italian parsley, not the curly variety (sometimes call German parsley) or Chinese parsley, which is actually cilantro, whose seeds are coriander. Italian parsley’s flavor is stronger and less bitter than the curly variety and holds up well to cooking processes. To retain flavor as well as nutritional value, add it later in the cooking process (as is the case for most herbs). Another nice characteristic is that it maintains its dark green color through cooking processes and freezing.
Parsley is much more than grass on a plate. Parsley plays roles that are more important than filling an empty space on the plate, or used as a decorative accent on top of a steak. One of the mantras my students frequently hear is, “Every ingredient must have a purpose, and that purpose is not decoration.” This means, parsley should be used to add flavor or texture to the dish, but not used as a coloring agent to “make the dish more interesting” by adding more color to the dish. This is a sign of a lack of imagination or creativity. Humble flavor-filled parsley deserves more respect than that.
When selecting parsley, choose the fresh over the dried whenever possible. It will last several days in the refrigerator if stored properly. If you are going to use it within a day or two, simply rinse it off in cold water to remove any soil or grit, wrap a slightly moist paper towel around it and stick it back in the plastic produce bag you brought home from the store and keep is chilled in the frig. Alternately, you can rinse it off and stick it in a glass of water, also storing in the frig, but remember to change the water daily. The parsley stored this way will last for about 5 or 6 days.
Parsley is one of three members of a classic combination of herbs: mint, cilantro and parsley. This combination is not only a flavor-packed combination that will make many dishes “pop,” it also makes a phenomenal tea for summer-time drinking. This tea is very healthy as it is high in antioxidants, vitamin A and K.
I spent a month in Saudi Arabia last year and enjoyed a wonderful dish almost every day – tabouli. Here is a great tabouli (that happens to be gluten-free!) that substitutes quinoa for the traditional bulgur wheat. It is not only a healthy power food, but it is extremely tasty.
2 cups water
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (to taste)
1 cup quinoa
1/3 cup olive oil
3 medium ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh mint
1 1/2 cups parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup scallion, chopped
Salt to taste
1. Place quinoa in a colander and rinse several times rubbing the grains together to remove the bitter outer layer.
2. Place water and quinoa into a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop the tomatoes, parsley and scallions. Add lemon juice, olive oil and fresh mint to the tomato mixture.
4. Stir in cooked quinoa and salt. Mix well.
5. Let tabouli sit in the refrigerator for a day to blend flavors.
6. Served at room temperature, so remove from fridge 30 to 60 minutes before serving.
Until next time, make every day a great day, stay well and kind to each other.
Chef David Hall