As a child, parsley was the ubiquitous green leaf on my plate in restaurants. As I grew older, it was the ingredient that every recipe could do without. If I did choose to include parsley in one of my pasta dishes, it was the dried variety that I shook out of a spice jar to add some color to a dish. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Middle Eastern cuisine that I began to realize there might be something more to fresh parsley after all. It took some experimentation in the kitchen, but my taste buds and I quickly made parsley a regular addition to the grocery list.
Although regarded as an herb, parsley has never been held in the same esteem as say, mint or basil or cilantro. True, its flavor is mild, but it is also incredibly fresh. And while some herbs are quite pungent, parsley offers the perfect blend of sweetness and spice. It also happens to be a nutritional wonder food; parsley has more calcium than milk, more Vitamin C than an orange and more beta carotene than a carrot.
There’s nothing parsley can’t do when paired with garlic and butter, especially as a marinade for fish or chicken. It is an absolute staple in Mediterranean cuisine. The mild green flavor also does wonders in soups and sauces. And as a garnish, it is hard to top. Its vibrant color can enliven even the dullest dish.
Instead of disregarding parsley the next time it is listed as an ingredient, seek out recipes where parsley gets top billing. Here are a few favorites that will have you saying, “basil, who?” in no time.
- Foule Mudammas: Arabic for fava bean, this salad is a protein power house with Mediterranean flair. The best part? Many brands of canned fava beans have a recipe right on the label. Cooked fava beans are mixed with garlic, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, tomato and plenty of fresh chopped parsley. It’s perfect with yogurt for breakfast or with additional mezze for dinner.
- Parmesan Risotto: Take a basic risotto recipe and add half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. The cream of the risotto and the light crunch of the parsley make this meal a delicacy anyone can master.
- Need a fresh, simple idea for dinner? Try pasta with lemon, garlic, parsley and olive oil.
- Tabbouleh: Yet another Middle Eastern salad where parsley takes center stage. This time, combine fresh chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, mint, lemon, olive oil and diced tomato.