Parsley, the salt of the vegetable kingdom
I do a lot of interviews and that means press people are always asking me to state preferences that I would never think about in real life: what’s your favorite soup? Where’s your favorite toast? What’s your favorite kitchen implement? And the one question to rule them all, the one question that pops up in every single interview: what’s your favorite ingredient? I’ve never sat around arranging and re-arranging ingredients in a complicated but graphically appealing personal preference chart, but after getting this “What’s your favorite ingredient?” question five million times I’ve finally realized the answer. My favorite ingredient? The one I use more than any other? The one I use in almost every single dish? The one I find myself buying by the case every week? Parsley.
Before I opened Dirt Candy, I’d never thought much about parsley. It was those little dried-up green bits sprinkled around a plate, the curly stalks stuck on top of terrible dishes of Italian food you used to eat when you flew on airplanes. It’s a non-entity, an un-vegetable, the least exciting herb in the Kingdom of Herbs and Spices. But it has become my go-to ingredient at Dirt Candy.
I love greens, and I love that herbaceous, green, springtime flavor that a lot of vegetables have. But sometimes, especially in winter, they don’t have it. They lack that green punch that I want to squeeze out of them. They’re not as green as I want them to be. The vegetables taste less, well, vegetabley. Enter parsley. Just as a spritz of citrus brightens flavors in a dish without overwhelming them, flat leaf parsley (not the curly kind) brightens that green flavor without overpowering the vegetable’s original taste. It’s the citrus of the herb world, a flavor enhancer that truly enhances, not replaces.
As long as it’s properly cleaned (because it’s an herb that often shows up looking like it’s been rolling around in the mud like a dog) parsley is the most versatile ingredient in my kitchen. Chefs often “finish” a dish with a dash of salt or one last bit of butter to tweak the flavor before it goes out to a table, sort of like that final blast of hairspray for a pageant competitor. To that arsenal, I’ve now added a last fistful of parsley, an herb that I never really thought about before, but that has become the underwear of my kitchen: I wouldn't dream of going anywhere without it.