Hello, Parsley!

Let’s talk about parsley.

One of those undervalued ingredients, usually slapped on the plate as an afterthought, parsley has somewhat of a bad reputation. Maybe the problem hinges on the grassy flavor of the herb, some would even describe it as “soapy”. The flavor never really dominates the palate and some people tend to think of parsley as flavorless. Parsley can also be difficult to clean completely and unfortunate diners may experience dreaded grit in the teeth. Another possibility is that many of us have not even eaten fresh parsley, instead tossing it aside to get to our steak. But parsley really does have a flavor, and it’s bright and peppery with hints of mint and licorice.

I want to convert you to parsley.

It might seem like a foolhardy task, seeing as how parsley is already widely used and very much present in the American kitchen, but few people view it as noteworthy. Bloggers can’t get enough of bacon but no one wants to stump for parsley. We take parsley for granted, and it’s really a shame. Because this stuff rocks! It’s refreshing and slightly sweet, it pairs well with fish, with melon, with starches. You can whisk together a vinaigrette with parsley and wow yourself with the color, the panache. I’m only just starting with my sweet, sweet parsley-lovin’.

Mediterranean cuisine makes ample use of the wondrous leaf and provides the perfect starting point for dishes were parsley shines. Fresh and light, tabbouleh salad is one of my favorites. Traditionally made with bulgur wheat, I make mine with quinoa for the extra protein. Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is a South American grain and one of the few grains containing complete proteins, making it a wonderful choice for vegetarians. The nutty flavor of the quinoa compliments the peppery, lemony taste of parsley and together they make an irresistible meal.

Oh, and don’t bother using this recipe with dried parsley, the flavor just doesn’t compare. The volatile oils that contain the peppery parsley flavor do not survive the drying process and leave behind flavorless, green, paper flakes. I personally think that dried parsley is pointless.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups water

1 bunch of parsley, finely minced
1 tbslp of dried or fresh mint
1 small tomato, diced
2 scallions, diced
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
2tblsp olive oil (add more to taste)
The juice of one lemon

Bring 2 cups of water to boil. Rinse the quinoa until the drained water runs clear. Quinoa does contain saponins that can make the grain taste bitter if not rinsed. Once the water is boiling, add quinoa, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until quinoa has absorbed the water (about 10mins). Fluff with a fork. Set your quinoa in the fridge to cool or make the quinoa ahead and use when ready.

Parsley, like most herbs, grows close to the soil. Because the leaves are curly they have a tendency to trap sand. I soak the parsley in a deep pot of cold water for a few minutes, allowing the grit to sink to the bottom. Rinse the parsley thoroughly. Remove the stems and mince finely. Do the same with your mint (or in my case, use the dried mint that you’ve been hoarding in your cupboard).
Add all remaining ingredients to your cooked quinoa. Salt and pepper to taste.

Of course tabbouleh is a wonderful side dish but for me, it’s a meal unto itself. This recipe made enough for me to pack lunches for a week. The lemon juice keeps the parsley fresh and the quinoa maintains it’s shape without disintegrating into mush.

So, give it a try and let me know what you think.

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