We’ve gone through a lot of ingredients over the last year or so during my “Ingredients: Everything You Need to Know” series- their uses, where they come from, etc. And it’s time to start with the all of the spices you might run across.
Let’s get started with parsley!
All About Parsley:
I started with parsley because it is the world’s most popular herb! As you cook, you’ll discover it as an ingredient in dish after dish. It’s native to the central Mediterranean region, but is cultivated throughout Europe, Americas, and Middle East. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning “rock celery” (parsley is a relative to celery).
How to Choose Parsley: Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over dried as it is superior in flavor. Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in color and looks fresh and crisp. Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates that they are either overmature or damaged.
Uses of Parsley:
• One of the major uses of parsley is as garnish. It gives dishes a good “finished” look and the bright green contrasts well.
• It is also often used- along with other herbs- as part of the process of making stock. My “Homemade Vegetable & Chicken Broth” uses parsley.
• A topping for salads, soups, or open-faced sandwiches.
• A variety of spice mixes, including an Italian version of salsa verde.
• Dips and cheese.
• A final major use is in cooked dishes. As I said, it is the most popular spice in the world…many, many cooked dishes call for the spice. Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooked dishes as it holds up better to heat.
Health Benefits: I’m going to be blunt: if an ingredient exists, there are people touting that it is a miracle cure for one thing for another. Parsley contains a good amount of Vitamin K and Iron.
How to Store Fresh Parsley: Basic storage includes washing them gently, then using paper towels to gently press out any excess water. Arrang them lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel, rolling them up like a jelly roll, then transfer the bundle to a plastic zipper lock bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator. (Method recommended by “Serious Eats.”)
Another method (I haven’t personally tested it, but it looks valid) is from Simply Recipes. 1) Snip off the bottom of the stems. ; 2) Make sure the leaves are completely dry. Don’t rinse until use. ; 3) Fill a jar or a water glass partially with water and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar. ; 4) Cover loosely with a plastic bag. Store in refrigerator. ; 5) If needed, switch out water. Supposedly, herbs can last up to two weeks this way. I’ll be testing it in the future!
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If fresh parsley isn’t an option (and I know for many it isn’t…buying a bunch every two weeks or so can add up), dried is a perfectly adequate option.
While you can find dried parsley in almost every grocery store, I prefer the “Simply Organic Parsley Flakes Cut & Sifted Certified Organic, 0.26 Ounce Container”
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley = 1 tsp. dried parsley. Note: do NOT use a 1 to 1 ratio.
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley= 1 Tbsp. fresh chervil (to be blunt, I have never seen chervil…but you might live in an area where it is readily available).
Substitute in Italian food:
Basil is a good substitute in Italian dishes (especially cooked ones). While it has a stronger flavor and a different taste, it helps maintain the taste of the region.
Substitute for garnish -or- slightly stronger flavor:
Fresh cilantro (if you like the flavor) is a good substitute for garnish. It gives the same eye-appeal and a lot of people discard the garnish for actually eating. I can attest from personal experience they work well…husband has an amazing habit of grabbing cilantro when parsley is specified on the grocery list.
You can also substitute dried Simply Organic Cilantro Certified Organic, 0.78-Ounce Container. I LOVE cilantro and don’t mind the slight difference in flavor.
You won’t find this recommended widely, but I love substituting McCormick Gourmet Collection, Tarragon Leaves, 0.37-Ounce Unit. Tarragon has a light flavor and is often included in spice blends that have parsley.