My family had a thing for eating at diners, especially for breakfast on the weekends. When I was really little there were still a few drug stores in our area with counters wedged in alongside the cough syrups and shampoos. My dad loved this kind of thing. He would sit peering at the Sunday paper through self-tinting aviator glasses while my brother and I spun around on red padded bar stools, and short-order cooks whipped up eggs (over easy) with bacon and grits.
We’d order, get called honey and darlin’, and throw back juice after juice, waiting for the main event. Biscuits…sausage….eggs…parsley. Grilled cheese…hashbrowns…parsley? What the hell?
It was so out of place. Not a thing on the plate contained parsley, yet inevitably there would be some woody clump of the curly variety perched on top of your food, like a fresh gift of hairball coughed up by a cat. My brother and I would dare each other to eat it. It poked around the inside of your mouth, leaving a faint aftertaste of grass clippings.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I came around to the way of the fresh parsley. It happened over a salsa verde that I meant to serve alongside a nice piece of fish, but accidentally ate by the spoonful before we got to the table. It just tasted so clean and fresh and herby alongside the stronger flavors of caper and anchovy, I couldn’t help it. I wanted to eat it with everything.
From then on, I’ve always kept a bunch of parsley in my refrigerator. It goes in everything, seriously. They key is to just got for it—whatever you put it in, use a lot. I mean a lot, a big shameless handful. If you’re making anything with even a whiff of Mediterranean-ness about it, with lemons, garlic, olives, or tomatoes, parsley is the herb for the job.
If you want to be a little more, er, recipe-like about it, try these classics.
I always start with 2 parts flat leaf parsley, 1 part mint, and 1 part basil. From there you can improvise on your amounts depending on what you like and how much you have on hand. I use a spoonful of Dijon mustard, a handful of capers, a few dill pickles, a couple of cloves of garlic, a few anchovies, some red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Chop everything up fine and mix it together with a good swig of olive oil.
Salsa Verde is good on all sorts of meats and vegetables, but especially lamb and fish. I also mix leftovers (if I have any) into crushed potatoes, with more olive oil, salt, and pepper.
In its simplest form, Persillade is just parsley and garlic chopped up together. I also like to use lemon zest and juice (or preserved lemons, if you’ve got any), salt and pepper, and olive oil. You can throw this in during cooking to pasta sauces and soups, use it in place of basil pesto, or spoon a little fresh onto grilled meat or vegetables. Another classic way is to mix it with fresh breadcrumbs to make a crust for rack of lamb. I’m too cheap for rack of lamb though, so would happily stick this crust on a piece of chicken, using mustard to glue the mixture onto the meat before frying or baking the whole thing.