Cooking with Parsley

It's more than a frill.


| June/July 1996


Recipes:

French Lentils
Purple Potatoes with Parsley
Tabbouleh
Pear Salsa
Ham in Parsley Aspic
Green Sauce for Grilled Fish 

When judged against other herbs’ heady flavors, parsley’s seems pallid indeed. Lacking basil’s sweet fragrance, pepper’s fire, mint’s cool finesse, or rosemary’s piney bite, parsley’s taste has been described as grassy, vegetal, or green—more inspiring to cows perhaps than to cooks. Yet parsley’s mild, herbaceous flavor is just what makes it so useful. What other herb could play these diverse roles:

Background flavoring. A few sprigs added to any soup, stew, or other water-based dish will enrich its flavor and add an elusive herbal bass note. This is parsley’s role in the French bouquet garni.
• Finishing touch. For a clean, finished flavor and colorful contrast, sprinkle noodles, vegetables, or potatoes with flecks of fresh parsley just as you would use black pepper.
• Liaison. Parsley’s mellow taste can link the flavors of two or more other, strongly­ flavored herbs or harmonize the ­flavors of disparate ingredients that might otherwise clash.
Pseudovegetable. A cup of minced parsley leaves tossed with an equivalent amount of soft grains adds nutrients as well as enticing taste, or call it a green and heap it into salads with lettuces and other greens.
Flavor extender or diluent. These roles differ in intent, but both combine mild parsley with an assertive herb. For example, when your basil supply is meager, you can extend your pesto with parsley, or use it to dilute and tame a harsher herb such as cilantro.
Garnish. No herb is prettier than curly-leaved parsley.

Parsley is among only a handful of fresh herbs available year round in virtually any supermarket. If its versatility and convenience don’t persuade you to make parsley a daily habit, consider that it has enough chlorophyll to quench the sulfurous fumes of garlic breath and is packed with health ­benefits.

A Potent Herb

Parsley’s vitamin C concentration is among the highest of any food—roughly 125 to 300 milligrams per 100 grams, which is a little less than an average bunch. (Nutritionists recommend taking 60 milligrams of vitamin C daily.) It’s also a rich source of iron, calcium, lutein, and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A). The latter two compounds are antioxidants, which have been linked with slowing cellular aging and the development of tumors. At least two other compounds—chlorophyll and myristicin—may also inhibit the development of some cancers.





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