Parsley—The Helper

April 2nd, 2013 7 Comments

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Let’s start with a few images from a weekend in a cabin with my sisters…as you can see it was full of hardship and suffering!  My favorite is the top photo taken by my sister.

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Girls with blow torches!

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This is a post about the Little Guys—ingredients that tirelessly support the whole, the oft Unsung Heroes of our culinary quests, the Ameliorators.

I try to have near me at all times what I call The Helpers, my cooking guardian angels.  These are foods that you can rely upon to come to the rescue when you are in a bind: to liven a flat tasting soup, or to make a soup creamy when a non-dairy friend comes to dinner, or to add color to a grey and rainy day.

 

I consider parsley to be the humble workhorse of the herb family.  Frequently overlooked because of the generic garnish status that has rendered into a shape and a color but with little respect…this little powerhouse helps any comestible construction project in your kitchen.  Like the Boxer the sturdy farmhorse, able to work hard with no expectation of glamour…this is My Ode to the Umbelliferous Parsley.

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Petroselinum Crispum

Parsley is a mildly bitter aromatic, sharing the Apiaceae family with the likes of carrots, celery, dill, fennel, angelica, chervil, and caraway. It is a diuretic, and has been used medicianally for blood cleansing, indigestion, stimulating digestion, to relax spasms, and to prevent kidney stones.

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Your tastebuds distinguish 5 flavors—sweet, salty, sour, pungeant and bitter.  Bitters may not be appealing to everyone when eaten alone but they are foundation stones for creating a balanced flavor in cooking.   When it comes to using them in the kitchen…Bitters make it Better.

Other bitters are celery, lemon zest, and greens like kale, mustard and arugula.

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Added at the beginning of the cooking process the aromatic properties of parsley will add depth to any dish—soup, casserole, grains or salads.

Fresh parsley can be added to salads, sprinkled on top of cooked dishes, or in soups right before serving and will enliven with a brightness that brings more layers to the picture.   It will give assistance to everything, responding to a cook’s S.O.S..

 

When I was a kid there would be the occasional midwestern family dining-out experience, with the heavy rimmed diner plate holding a burger and a hot pile of fries, or a splurge might mean a steak and potato dinner.  No matter what we ordered, there on the side of the plate sat the little representative of Green in a colony of brown and tan…that humble Parsley Sprig.  Ignored and scraped to the edges it sat, to be taken back into the kitchen and tossed into the trash or garbage disposal (pre-commercial-compost-days).

But I loved parsley sprigs.  I would munch mine, enjoying that little tingling sensation while I chewed, and then I would proceed to eat the sprigs from plates of everyone at the table.  I suppose that was a sign of what was to come for that weird kid who preferred parsley.

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After this initial posting my sister sent me an article from The Washington Post, apparently Parsley was in the air.

Next time you’re wondering how to give vibrant color to rice, or what to eat with cucumbers, or how to liven that soup…. give a call to the Underdog: Parsley.

 

Cooking with Parsley

  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Casseroles
  • Marinades
  • While cooking beans
  • In rice water
  • In your bathwater

 

Fresh Parsley

  • Rice Pilaf
  • Cold Pasta Salads
  • Hot Pastas
  • Sprinkled on hot dishes or soups before serving
  • Fish and Chicken
  • Grain Salads
  • In Pestos
  • Steamed Vegetables

 

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I recently rediscovered this gem of scarf from my aunt.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Encore!
    And the wine photo from that sister of yours is stunning.

  2. Barb says:

    Before I read the paragraph about your memories of eating springs of parsley, I was going to comment on MY memories of you doing that very thing… eating the decorative garnish off of everyone’s plate! We should have known then that your love of flavors would take you far.

  3. Coleen says:

    Love the wine photo! And parsley, it is taking over my front yard. So nice! I let it go to seed and it rewards me with sufficient parsley to supply all my needs, plus I can send plants home with friends.

  4. Britney says:

    Loved reading this! And the photos are gorgeous! That scarf is pretty awesome, too :)

  5. Jon says:

    Parsley makes a great breath freshener also. I should use it more often.

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