Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Emerald of the Herb Garden

Wow, two big bunches of parsley.  So, what to do... what to do... what to do...

First off, parsley isn't the green stuff on the side of the plate at old school restaurants.  That's curly parsley anyway.  The bunches we have are, well, a horse of a completely different color.  Italian flat leaf parsley, and it's an oft-overlooked emerald in the herb world.

Parsley is what's called a biennial plant.  That means it has a two-year lifecycle.  Over its first growing season, it stores nutrients in a taproot.  After the second growing season, the roots can be used in soups and stocks, or roasted with other root vegetables.  Mmm...  The varieties of parsley we typically get here in the US have smaller, thinner roots than Eastern European varieties, but they still taste really good.
Photo via Wikipedia

So, what to do with all this parsley?  We did talk about pesto before, and parsley makes a really good one.  Take a basic pesto recipe, and make the following substitutions:  parsley for the basil, toasted walnuts for the pine nuts, and a little grated fresh ginger for half the garlic (but go easy on the ginger).  That'll make a pesto that's great on pasta, fish and chicken.

It's called Italian flat-leaf parsley, and it's in a wide variety of Italian dishes.  Spaghetti puttanesca, for example.  There are numerous risotto dishes featuring parsley, as well.
Photo via SimplyRecipes

Parsley is a classic ingredient in American cooking, particularly in stuffing.  Yes, yes, I know, Thanksgiving stuffing has to have sage.  But this isn't Thanksgiving.  Sunday dinner is fast becoming a thing of bygone days, but hey, fight the trend.  Roast a chicken, and make some stuffing (you can get bagged roasted chestnuts at any big grocery store).  This one is a great stuffing recipe, too.  Bring back tradition!

As previously mentioned, you can stuff some of the zucchini that you have, and there's parsley in the stuffing.
Photo via Fareham Wine Cellar Blog

Finally, I'd like to tell you about a recent culinary interest of mine.  I discovered a Bolivian restaurant, and a prominent feature of their cuisine is chimichurri sauce for their steaks and chicken.  Parsley is the main ingredient, and the bright vinegary sauce shows just how not boring the parsley is.  I've been trying to replicate their chimichurri, and can never quite get it.  There are some recipes out there that get pretty close, though, and they're delicious.  Try this one, this one, or this one.

In looking at my recipe database, of the 1100+ recipes I have, more than 20% list parsley as an ingredient.  Many of those use it just as some color sprinkled on top, but a lot of them use it as an integral flavor in its own right.  Yep, parsley is more than just color.

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