Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
Using it primarily for medicinal, superstitious and even funerary purposes, ancient Greece was one of the first civilizations to embrace parsley, while ancient Rome was one of the first to eat it. The herb wasn’t widely used in the kitchen, however, until the Middle Ages, when it was most likely popularized by Charlemagne, who grew it in his famous imperial gardens. There are three varieties of parsley — flat-leaf, curly and rooted — and they’ve all been enjoyed for centuries. It’s especially beloved in the Middle East, where today, the parsley-centric tabbouleh is a national dish of Lebanon.
What to Buy
You’re looking for colorful, unmarred leaves — no yellowing, no bug-eaten fronds, no brown, slimy liquid. No wilting allowed. Keep your parsley fresh longer by storing it, stem-first, in a glass of water or by keeping a bundle loosely covered by a bag or paper towel in your fridge’s crisper.
How to Prepare
Wash your parsley thoroughly before cooking, then get to chopping. Curly parsley, milder in flavor, is voluminous on the dish or in it; try tearing or cutting it roughly and adding toward the end of cooking to give texture to your meal. Don’t discard those stems — mince them into just about anything, or add, whole, to season stocks and sauces. This herb often finds its way into fresh juice, and also serves as a pillar of a number of classic sauces such as chimichurri, gremolata and the European salsa verde. Oh, and parsley pesto? That’s possible, too. Diced or puréed with oil, garlic and other herbs, the possibilities are endless. Just have fun with it.
By Steve Walker of Mezeh Mediterranean Grill
½ cup water
1/4 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup seasonal tomatoes (heirloom, Hanover or beefsteak recommended), finely diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
½ cup green onions, sliced into 1/8-inch pieces
4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
1 cup European cucumber, finely diced and with seeds removed
½ cup fresh sweet mint, finely chopped
½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
In a small or medium pot, combine bulgur with water, salt and olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat for 2 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let sit 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Spread the bulgur on a pan lined with wax paper and cover, then place in the refrigerator until the wheat has thoroughly cooled. As this chills, combine the tomato, red onion, green onion, cucumber, parsley, mint and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly but gently in a large bowl. Fully incorporate the bulgur once cooled, and serve atop greens, hummus, rice, grilled meat or alone as a salad.