Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just Parsley...No Sage, Rosemary or Thyme

Oh, the lowly parsley. Some of us have only encountered it in its curly form, accompanied by a wizened orange slice, as a garnish on the plate of that included pancakes, eggs, hashed browns and bacon. A few chopped sprigs may have been randomly sprinkled over an omelet or added at the last minute to give a soup or stew some “color”. Parsley may have never crossed your mind as an herb; it may have just been something green on you plate. You may have even been told that chewing a bit of that curly sprig from your plate may help with bad breath. Not bad advice, but parsley has many other uses.

One of the mainstays in my mother’s cooking repertoire when I was growing up was Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  This was a soup mix that came in a box and if memory serves me right, there were dried noodles, a gelatin “egg” that contained the chicken flavoring and a foil packet that contained other stuff, among them dried parsley. My sister called this “Green Things Soup” because of that dried parsley and we loved it as part of a dinner that also included grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta brand cheese. I do not even want to think about the other contents of that foil packet and their possibility of now being labeled carcinogenic. But, hey, we’re talking the ‘60’s here! My mother made a pitcher of TANG every morning because the astronauts drank it in space and she fed us bacon! Wait, bacon is not bad! 

Parsley often plays second fiddle to other herbs that provide a much bigger punch. Bouquet Garni, a combination of herbs used when preparing stock, soups and stews, is a classic example. And we all remember Scarborough Faire and its chorus of “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme”. 

Those of us who spend time in the kitchen know that, with its clean, grassy flavor, Petroselinum crispum can hold its own as the focal point of many dishes.

My cousin Nancy, who lives in Tiffin, Ohio, is a dedicated home gardener. She has her own bee hives and chickens, so eggs and honey are prolific in her home. And she knows her herbs. Here's what she has to say about parsley:

Here's what I know from trial and error: It's an easy to grow biennial. It needs full sun and well drained soil. Flat leaf has more flavor, but I prefer curly leaf because it chops better. Love it in salads and Middle Eastern dishes.

I will differ with my dear cousin on the curly parsley. Though it may be easier to chopped than the flat-leaf Italian version, I just cannot get that chain restaurant breakfast and its weak attempt at garnishing out of my mind. Curly parsley always says, "Grand Slam Breakfast" to me!

Parsley is the star of Chimichurri, a sauce, or condiment, closely associated with Argentine cuisine, and has now been used in a variety of ways.

Here's a favorite Chimichurri recipe from  Eating Well - Served over a grilled rib-eye steak, you've got one great summer dinner!

photo from Eating Well magazine

  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, (1/2-1 bunch)
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or cayenne pepper
  • Chop parsley and garlic together on a cutting board until the parsley is finely minced. Transfer to a medium bowl, add vinegar, oil, salt and chipotle (or cayenne) pepper; stir to combine.

How have I been spotlighting parsley this summer? In pasta salad!

Pasta Salad with Parsley

Margie MacKenzie, Nutmeg Kitchens

  • 16 oz of shaped pasta - fusilli, penne, rotelli, your choice
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups Kalamata olives
  • 2 cups cubed Mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, reserving some to garnish the salad
  • Parmesan Cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Toss warm pasta with vinegar and oil. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine with chopped parsley and Parmesan. Garnish with reserved parsley. Serve at room temperature. Adjust flavors - more oil, more vinegar, salt or pepper and more parsley to suit your palate.

"Parsley - the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate."
  - Albert Stockli

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's Hot! Watermelon is Cool!

It is hot, just plain hot, and I am not singing along with Buster Poindexter. It’s hot here in the Bay Area! And I do not like hot, at least not this hot. And it is hot across the Southwest where wild fires have been raging.

Nineteen elite firefighters were killed Sunday while battling a wild fire in Yarnell, Arizona. They were doing what they were trained to do – to fight wild fires and to keep people and structures safe. My prayers go out to the families of these brave men and the community that will miss them so dearly.

My family lived next to a fire station, Woodside FireProtection District Station 8, for 18 years.
When my sons were wee ones, the three of us would almost daily pay a post-afternoon nap visit to the “Fire Boys”, as my sons called them. We became good friends and good neighbors with the men, and eventually, the women, who staffed Station 8. They provided us with care and friendship that exceeds the best of what a neighbor can do. Yes, they actually rescued our kitten from a tree, with a neighbor's barking dog at their heels. Firefighters still do things like that. And they risk their lives. I always said a prayer whenever I heard their truck go out. 

We now live in Redwood City, not far from a busy fire house. I hear the siren daily. I say a prayer each time I hear that siren – a prayer of thanks and of hope that all will be safe.

When it's hot, I don't feel much like eating. Cooking, yes, as I do for my catering and personal chef clients. The family ends up having refrigerator forage nights if I haven't planned something for the grill, which usually isn't lighted until after sundown.

I've found a nifty culinary way to cool down that doesn't require any actual cooking - Watermelon! Native to Southern Africa, watermelon has traveled the world and can be called a truly global ingredient. Sliced and eaten out of hand with a pinch of salt as we all did as kids on hot summer days is perfect, but  Citrullus lanatus has grown up along with my palate.  I now make watermelon the focal point of a summer salad that has my family and clients swooning.

The bright red watermelon - a salute to our brave firefighters!

Watermelon, Feta & Arugula Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Honey Vinaigrette


    • 4 TBS Cider Vinegar
    • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
    • 2 TBS Honey
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 4 TBS Olive Oil
    • 4 TBS Vegetable Oil
    • 1 small watermelon
    • 16 oz crumbled Feta cheese
    • Arugula
    • Chopped Mint, optional


    1. Place vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the ingredients are combined. Add the oils and shake again to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and even vinegar and honey if necessary. You should have a combination of sweet and sour, with neither flavor overpowering the other.
    2. Cube watermelon according to the recipe below.
    3. Toss arugula in the dressing, arrange cubed watermelon over it and top with the feta and chopped mint. Drizzle some leftover dressing over the cheese. Enjoy!

For a favorite appetizer 

Watermelon-Tomato Cups with Feta and Mint

Watermelon-Tomato Cups

Adapted by Margie MacKenzie, from GIADA DELAURENTIS


    • 1 small seedless watermelon
    • 1 pint cherry tomato
    • 1 bunch fresh mint
    • 16 oz crumbled feta cheese
    • 12 small appetizer cups, bamboo or other similar "tasting" cup
    • 12 wooden cocktail forks


    1. Slice the top and bottom off and then make four straight cuts down the sides to create a rindless cube. Cut the cube into 1 1/2 inch thick slices and then each slice into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
    2. Slices the cherry tomatoes in half.
    3. Remove mint leaves from the stems. Roll 5-6 leaves together lengthwise and then slice into very thin ribbons (chiffonade); repeat with remaining leaves until all are sliced.
    4. To assemble: place 2-3 watermelon cubes and 2-3 tomato slices, depending on the size, into the serving cup. Drizzle with Honey Vinaigrette then sprinkle with a few basil ribbons and then with some crumbled feta. Serve with wooden cocktail fork.

Stay cool and stop by your local fire station and say thank you!

Happy Independence Day!