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Published June 30, 2010, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: Parsley more than just a garnish

Long before it was used to flavor food, parsley was employed as a medicine; sometimes to prevent drunkenness. Greeks also used the plant, which is native to southern Europe along the Mediterranean, as decoration for victorious athletes.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Long before it was used to flavor food, parsley was employed as a medicine; sometimes to prevent drunkenness.

Greeks also used the plant, which is native to southern Europe along the Mediterranean, as decoration for victorious athletes.

These days, we mostly know it as a food garnish; though using it as garnish is not appropriate to a dish unless it is included in the recipe.

But it is wonderful stuff. And parsley can be used as the main ingredient in many dishes – I’ve included a few recipes at the end of this column, including one for Parsley Cream Soup.

While it’s easy to use in recipes, growing parsley might not be as simple for you.

Parsley can be successfully grown in pots; and I have several. I take them inside in the winter and they thrive until spring. Almost. I cut back the brown leaves before moving the plants back to the garden and they soon revive.

When I clip parsley to take inside or buy it at the market, I wash it well, trim the stems and remove any debris. I dry it in paper towels, and put a rubber band around the stems and place the bunch in a glass with about 3 inches of water. A plastic bag goes over the top and the parsley goes in the fridge.

If the water is changed every five or six days, the parsley will last for about three weeks. It doesn’t last that long at our house because I add it to soups, salads and casseroles. It adds a fresh, peppery flavor. The flat-leaf variety is slightly stronger-tasting than the curly leaf, and the two varieties may be used interchangeably. This method of storage works for most herbs.

Parsley is an essential part of Bouquet Garni – a bundle of herbs often tied together with string – which consists of parsley, thyme and bay leaf tied together and used to flavor soups and stews. The bouquet is removed before serving.

Parsley Cream Soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 celery ribs, thinly sliced

4 potatoes, peeled and diced

5 cups good chicken stock

2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups light cream

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onions and celery. Sauté on low heat until vegetables are softened.

Stir in potatoes and chicken broth and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Add parsley and simmer for 3 to 4 more minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and cool slightly. Correct seasoning and process until smooth. Stir in cream just before servings. Serves 6.

Parsley Pesto

2 cloves garlic, roots removed

2 cups packed fresh parsley

1/3 cup olive oil

Fresh basil to taste

Fresh oregano to taste

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a processor and whiz until smooth. This is enough pesto for 1 pound of pasta.

To toast walnuts, heat them in a dry pan on medium until browned. Watch carefully. Cool on paper towels.

Parsley Garlic Butter

2 small shallots

1 large clove garlic, root removed

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Whiz shallots and garlic in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and purée until smooth. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Note: This compound butter is good on almost any vegetable, meat, fowl, fish or pasta. It is known as maître d’hôtel butter.

Sources: “The Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst; www.epicurious.com/recipes; www.cooksrecipes.com/soup/parsley_cream_soup_recipe.html


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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