Parsley: The Wallflower of Herbs


In summer, it is simply wonderful to have a fresh herb garden in the backyard. For those city dwellers, a small herb garden in a planter on your balcony is also a convenient way to get some fresh herbs for a few months of the year.  I always prefer fresh rather than dry; even in winter. I always purchase the holy trinity of herbs (parsley, basil & cilantro) from the local supermarket year-round. The only exception with these herbs during winter months is that they have a limited shelf life in the fridge. In your garden, they will bloom for at least 4-5 months of the year. Parsley is considered the wallflower of herbs and can also be picked at the end of harvest and stored in a plastic bag in your freezer till next Spring. It keeps quite well and is better than dried parsley in sauces, soups and stews during the cold winter months.

Parsley’s botanical name is actually Petroselinum crispum. It is considered a species of flowering plant in the family of Apiaceae (aromatic flowering plants) that are native to the Central Mediterranean regions. It is also known for common uses elsewhere and is widely cultivated as a herb or as a vegetable.

Not only is it widely used in EuropeanMiddle Eastern and American cuisine but is known world-wide under some form or another.  Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish, where as the flat leaf parsley is used in cooking. In all of Europe and western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Flat leaf parsley is similar and easier to cultivate, some say it is stronger in flavor. Root parsley is very common in central, eastern, and southern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles and an ingredient for broth. It is believed to have been originally grown in Sardinia and brought to England.

In Europe, parsley is part of a bouquet garni, a bundle of fresh herbs used as an ingredient in stockssoups, and sauces. Freshly chopped green parsley is used as a topping for soups such as chicken soup, green salads, or salads and on open sandwiches with cold cuts or pâtés.

Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French cuisine. Parsley is the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, and sometimes bread, soaked in vinegar. It is an Italian custom to serve it with bollito misto or fish. Gremolata, a mixture of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, is a traditional accompaniment to the Italian veal stew, ossobuco alla Milanese.

In England, parsley sauce is a roux-based sauce, commonly served over fish or gammon. It is also served with Pie and mash in the East End of London where it is referred to as Liquor.

In Brazil, freshly chopped parsley (salsa) and freshly chopped scallion (cebolinha) are the main ingredients in the herb seasoning called cheiro-verde (literally “green aroma”), which is used as key seasoning for major Brazilian dishes, including meat, chicken, fish, rice, beans, stews, soups, vegetables, salads, condiments, sauces, and stocksCheiro-verde is sold in food markets as a bundle of both types of fresh herbs. In some Brazilian regions, chopped parsley may be replaced by chopped coriander (also called cilantro, coentro in Portuguese) in the mixture.

Parsley is a key ingredient in several Middle Eastern salads such as Lebanese tabbouleh; it is also often mixed in with the chickpeas and/or fava beans while making falafel (that gives the inside of the falafel its green color). It is also a main component of the Iranian stew ghormeh sabzi. Parsley is a component of a standard seder plate arrangement, it is eaten to symbolize the flourishing of the Jews after first arriving in Egypt.

A chef’s trick to storing and preserving parsley is to squeeze out the moisture in parsley to lengthen its shelf life and also to prevent its green liquid from staining foods when using it as a garnish. Parsley ‘s possibilities are far greater than generically sprinkling it on food or using small sprigs as garnish. Cookbooks especially from the Mediterranean have incorporated parsley into their culinary and medicinal repertoire.

But even after all this time, parsley still hangs out modestly in the shade while more exotic abounding herbs garner more attention in the bright light of summer. This mild refreshing flavored herb quietly goes about its business enhancing just about every savory dish cooked in the kitchen. It should win the Miss congeniality award for going well and getting along with everything. It brightens soups, salads, stews casseroles, marinades, it enhances meats fish, vegetables and sauces. It is also the most herb people use year-round. While others are in short supply, parsley is always there to add a fresh taste to your cooking.

Parsley also plays an important role in diet because it is packed with such nutrients as Vitamin A & C, riboflavin and folacin and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Unlike other herbs like thyme which has many varieties, parsley is limited to a few. There are two most well-known types of parsley, flat and curly. Curly is usually good for garnish. Flat leaf parsley comes packed with more flavor. Root parsley, which is harvested for its roots tastes somewhat like parsnips and is best for soups & stews. There are also a couple of wannabes, Chinese parsley or better known as cilantro or coriander, looks like it but is a completely different flavor. Japanese Parsley flavor is clean and refreshing with slightly a bitter taste and is celery like. The sprouts are used in salad and soups as well as a garnish for sushi. There are two varieties are Kansai & Kanto. These much more intensely flavored herbs are relatives of the family of Umbelliferae which also includes carrots and celery plants.

To keep store bought parsley fresh, trim the bottoms and submerge the roots in water. Then store in a cool place until ready to use. It does not have to be in the refrigerator. They will keep a few days if you refresh the water. Curly parsley needs a good wash before use as the leaves collect dirt. Gently pat dry before using. A few recipes that incorporate this lovely herb in its best form.

Parsley Pesto (Gremolata)

Make 2 cups

This flavorful combination can accompany cheese, olives, sliced tomatoes and Italian Meats. It can be mixed into pasta, soups, or sauces. Serve alongside frilled fish or meats.

Ingredients:

4 finely minced garlic cloved

1 bunch parsley -stems removed

¼ c pine nuts

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

¾ c olive oil

Alt & pepper

Crushed chilies- optional

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse till processed to paste or desired consistency.

Use as desired. Can be stored in refrigerator in mason jar for 1-2 weeks or frozen for later use.

Tabbouleh-Salad

Serves 6

This version of the classic Mediterranean dish is sometimes called parsley salad. It is different from the one with Bulgar wheat that is sold in supermarkets. It is softened with lemon juice not boiling water. This recipe has a pleasing lemony taste which makes this salad great for summer accompanied with chicken or fish cooked on the grill.

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur wheat

Juice of 5 lemons

1 bunch green onions- Finely chopped

5 ripe tomatoes-diced

2 c chopped fresh parsley

½ c chopped fresh mint

½ English cucumber- chopped finely

¼ c olive oil

2 crushed garlic cloves

½ red onion -finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

 

  • Place bulgur wheat in a bowl and cover with lemon juice. Top with cold water if wheat is not completely covered.
  • Soak until all liquid is absorbed. Takes 1-2 hrs.
  • Toss in remaining ingredients and mix well
  • Refrigerate 1-2 hrs to allow salad flavors to mix well.

 

Buttermilk & Cheddar Biscuits with Parsley

Makes 12 biscuits

Great for morning breakfast with scrambled eggs or at dinner as rolls with meat, stews & casseroles

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

¼ c butter

1 c grated cheddar cheese

2 tbsp shopped parsley

1 c. buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 425F (220C).
  • Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
  • Cut in butter until it forms pea size crumbles.
  • Mix in cheddar cheese and parsley.
  • Gently mix in buttermilk until loose dough forms.
  • Turn onto floured surface.
  • Knead into a round ball and flatten into a disk shape that is ¾ inch thick. Cut into 3-inch-wide rounds and bake for 12-15minutes.
  • Let cool on rack.

 

Roasted Chicken with Parsley lemon and garlic.

Serves 4

Easy to make refreshing chicken recipe that can be served with Tabbouleh in the summer.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs. or 1-2 kg)

1 c fresh parsley- sprigs

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

2 crushed garlic cloves

1 whole lemon

Juice of lemon and lemon zest

Salt, pepper & paprika to taste.

  • Preheat oven to 375F(190C)
  • Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry.
  • Stuff cavity with parsley sprigs and whole lemon
  • Combine oil, chopped parsley, garlic and lemon juice and zest in small bowl. Mic well
  • Rub mixture on chicken
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Roast chicken 75-90 minutes. Baste with pan juices during cooking

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