By Fiona Breslin
Parsley, with its spicy, refreshing taste so essential for Mediterranean recipes such as tabbouleh –that mix of wheat bulgar, chopped tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and tons of this green herb–is an ancient herb rich in nutrients such as iron, potassium, and even some calcium.
Typically used in American cuisine in decades past as a decorator of dishes when serving supper—the ever-present parsley “sprig” has taken on a bigger role in modern cooking. And no wonder. The herb is also a source of healthy phytochemicals such as lutein and quercetin, a flavonoid that the American Institute for Cancer Research reports is being studied for anti-cancer effects. A source of vitamins A, C, and K, parsley may also serve as a mild diuretic that can help support digestion during treatment and aid cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure.
Available in Italian flat leaf and curly varieties, parsley blends well with other herbs and spices to enhance flavor of salads, stews, vegetables, and rice dishes. For taste and nutritional value, always purchase fresh parsley rather than dried. Always rinse well before using.
Not all parsley is created equal. We always use the flat leaf ‘Italian’ variety in our recipes, and suggest you do too. Its taste far outshines the curly variety. Look for parsley that is crisp, deep green, with no wilted or yellow leaves. Store fresh parsley wrapped in damp paper towel in a clear plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. It should keep three to five days.
Parsley is one of the herbs you should always keep on hand in your fridge. It can be used in just about everything except dessert. To see how delicious it is as an accent, try Cook for Your Life’s Warm Chickpea Salad or a simple pasta dish like our Lemony Mushroom Pasta or Tuna Pasta.Although parsley is readily available year round, to store it in the freezer, gradually blend one cup of roughly chopped parsley leaves and a pinch of salt into, ½ – ¾ cup of olive oil. This makes a thick, green, ‘pesto’- like paste that you can flat-freeze in a Ziploc bag. This simple stand-by will give you parsley’s bright taste to stir into soups and stews if you can’t find fresh.