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Cooking with Parsley

POSTED August 29, 2012

Parsley: one of the most commonly used herbs, under-rated and totally necessary.

There’s an expression in Italy, most often said to kids: “Sei come il prezzemolo, sei dappertutto,” which means “You’re like parsley, you’re everywhere.” This says a lot about the prevalence of the use of parsley (“prezzemolo”) in Italian cuisine – it is by far the most popular and commonly used herb. This Mediterranean herb is a wonderful complement to a vast range of dishes and pasta sauces – especially seafood and vegetable sauces; in fact, the only sauces in which parsley is generally not used are cream-based ones. Parsley enhances and defines the taste and texture of just about all seafood preparations, including pesce alla griglia (grilled fish). It is also frequently used in vegetable side dishes (called “contorni,” in Italian) – such as, zucchini, peppers and eggplant – as well as in salads and countless soups.

Parsley, a familiar garnish on a variety of plates, is perfect for soothing powerful flavors, making it an ideal complement for spicy dishes. It is an important component of the bouquet garni, which is a selection of fresh herbs – including parsley, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and sage – tied together into a bundle and cooked in soups, sauces or stews.

Originally native to southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region – its usage in pagan rituals dates back to ancient Greece – today it is cultivated almost everywhere. The flat leaf variety (P. neapolitanum), referred to as “Italian parsley,” is the only variety used in Italy and in most Mediterranean countries.

Whenever garlic is used, parsley must be there. With experience, it will become a natural habit to marry the two ingredients. Because of the high chlorophyll content, parsley acts as a great breath freshener. Very rich in iron, iodine and magnesium, as well as other minerals, parsley is also a good source of vitamins A, B, and most of all, C.

It’s always preferable to use fresh parsley, though this herb preserves well when chopped and frozen. When using fresh parsley, first trim the leaves, then wash and chop them – keeping them all bunched together with one hand while you chop with the other. In most cases, it’s best to add parsley to a sauce after the pot has been removed from the flame, or else as the final touch to the serving dish.