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

1 comment:

  1. My dear cousin has made my garden sound very nice, when in fact unwanted plants we call weeds have taken over! The parsley is growing nicely this year due to the generous amounts of rain and the tomatoes look to be very promising.