A wilted sprig of curly parsley often feels like the worst insult to a plate of food. Instead of being treated like a sad garnish, parsley at its best has the ability to enhance a wide variety of dishes.
“I think it adds this wonderful, sort of bright, kind of like pleasantly grassy flavor,” said L.V. Anderson, who edits Slate’s food and drink sections. “It also plays well with other herbs. You can mix it with basil or mint, or with stronger herbs like oregano or thyme. And you can use so much of it.”
Anderson explain that, unlike many other fresh herbs, a bunch of parsley used in its entirety won’t overpower the flavor of a dish. She also shared her preferred method for cleaning and preparing a large amount of parsley all at once.
“If you have a salad spinner, I think that’s a really good way of doing it,” Anderson said. If not, grab the stems of the bunch of parsley and plunge the leaves into a bowl of water. Repeat, changing the water a few times, and you’re ready to go. See Anderson’s method and her recommendation on how to chop parsley in this video.
“If you’re in a hurry, I think that this is the best way to deal with parsley,” she said.
In the video, Anderson uses with flat-leaf, Italian parsley, and she admitted a distinct preference for that variety, rather than curly leaf parsley. When chopped up, curly leaf tends to have an airy quality that she finds unpleasant.
Anderson discussed her opinions about parsley and more in her Slate column called, “You’re Doing It Wrong.” She notes that many readers take umbrage with the inflammatory title.
“It’s just a place where people can write about their very strong opinions about the right way to do a dish, even though, obviously, food is a matter of taste and everyone has different opinions about it,” Anderson explained. Surprisingly, one of the most comment-generating topics was chili. She provided a vegetarian chili recipe and was so inundated with readers’ objections that she felt compelled to offer a non-vegetarian recipe, as well.
As for parsley, Anderson offered an herb-heavy tabbouleh recipe. “I feel that it should be a lot of parsley, and just the tiniest amount of bulgar for a little bit of textural contrast,” she said. “But I also think that tabbouleh should have a lot of lemon juice in it, which makes it really refreshing and I feel like kind of offsets the parsley flavor pretty nicely.”
If you agree with Anderson’s take, try out her recipe for tabbouleh. That’s below.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings Time: About 1¼ hours, partially unattended
⅓ cup bulgur
1½ pounds tomatoes (about 3 medium)
2 bunches fresh parsley, thick stems discarded
1 small bunch fresh mint, thick stems discarded
4 scallions, green parts discarded
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Put the bulgur and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, then add ⅔ cup boiling water. Cover the bowl and steep until the bulgur is tender, about 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes, parsley, mint, and scallions, and combine them in a salad bowl. Drain the bulgur and add it to the salad bowl along with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately.
Joy Y. Wang covers food and culture for WNYC. In October 2009, she created the weekly WNYC All Things Considered segment, Last Chance Foods. The seasonal food segment features farmers, chefs, and food writers talking about everything from growing asparagus to hunting wild turkey.
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