By Barbara Beltrami
A little sprig for a garnish, another little sprig to chop and sprinkle on top, a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, but hardly ever the center of attention. And so it goes with parsley, actually perhaps the most agreeable, versatile, recipe-friendly herb in the garden. What a pity it is so unsung, so taken for granted because it really can figure significantly in a tabbouleh, gremolata or cream of parsley soup. While curly parsley may be prettier, the flat-leaf variety is definitely preferred for its flavor. So cook up some dishes with the latter, but garnish them with the former and enjoy them both. And by the way, I’ve just planted my garden so you haven’t heard the last from me on the subject of herbs. Stay tuned.
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup bulgur wheat
1½ cups boiling water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of two small lemons
Salt to taste
1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch pieces
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the bulgur wheat, boiling water, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Stir well, then let sit at room temperature for one hour. Add the parsley, mint, scallions, cucumber and tomatoes; add pepper and more salt if needed; toss and cover; let sit at room temperature for an hour or two. Toss again and serve at room temperature or chilled with fish, poultry or meat and tzatziki.
YIELD: Makes ¾ to 1 cup
1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
Zest of one small lemon
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse several times until mixture is semismooth. With rubber spatula, scrape sides of bowl and pulse 4 or 5 more times. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Serve with fish, poultry or meat.
Cream of Parsley Soup
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 bunches Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 Vidalia onion, diced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup light or heavy cream or half-and-half
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1 pint sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Prepare a large bowl with ice water; layer several sheets of paper towels. In a large saucepan bring 1½ quarts of water to a boil; drop parsley into water and boil until soft and bright green, about 1 to 1½ minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove parsley and drop gently into ice water. When cool, remove and squeeze out excess water; place on paper towels and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Chop parsley and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat; add garlic and onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add broth and cream and stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add parsley and salt and pepper; stir and cook another 5 minutes.
Let cool slightly; transfer to food processor or blender, add lemon juice and puree until smooth. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and accompanied by a dry white wine and toasted baguette slices drizzled with olive oil.