Chris and I Like Parsley

June 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Eat Local Salsa Verde and More




One of several ways my wife made Father’s Day a very special day for me, was giving me full reign to prepare that day’s main meal. It meant not just time at the grill but time at Butcher and Larder to pick the meat.  Of course free reign did not mean absolute free reign.  That is there are always other forces at work.  In this case, the kosher-ness of my sister and brother-in-law.  I make a great pork roast on the grill.  I have the butcher cut into but not all the way off, the rib bones.  I then stuff the revealed inside with herbs and garlic (and sometimes a salty tiny fish or two) and tie it all back up for cooking.  Forbidden that idea, I wanted something else that needed herbs.  Given free reign for dinner, my dinner would center around parsley.  Centering around parsley means centering around salsa verde.

When the world gives me parsley, I give the world salsa verde.  Along with cole slaw it is my great virtuosity in the kitchen.  As with cole slaw, I never quite follow the same recipe for salsa verde, but I always, sorry for the immodesty, make salsa verde that tastes good.  Salsa verde, or green sauce, is simply a mix of herbs bound with some acid, lemon juice or vinegar both work, and a little more oil.   I like a mix of herbs especially some mint and cilantro in there, but the bulk has to be, is always, parsley.  It’s parsley because parsley takes up room.  It fills the bowl with that flavor that can best be considered herb without sending things too far in odd directions, like the way say, too much marjoram would take the sauce.  Salsa verde is like an orchestra.  The other herbs add their flourishes; additions I may use like capers, anchovies, dijon mustard, bread crumbs, lemon zest, garlic–not all at once–add their own notes, but at the end of the day, the parsley is the violins, carrying the sound. Want another salsa verde pointer. Use your knife. A lot of people, including my wife, make salsa verde with a food processor, creating a thick green emulsion. No. I think it’s way better with the texture of chopped herbs. Also, it’s better when not fully mixed, so you do get to more fully appreciate the individual herbal instruments making up your orchestra.

father's day beef

My original thought for Sunday was BBQ. I had thought of getting something like beef ribs at Butcher and Larder, beef ribs cut thick for low and slow cooking in my barrel grill. Then there was parsley. I’ve been looking for local parsley for ages. None of the vendors at Oak Park have had it since the market opened. In recent weeks, I’ve been able to stop by the Daley and Federal markets downtown. Both markets have Smits Farm, who specialize in herbs. I’ve taken home fun stuff from Smits including lemon balm, tarragon and thyme, but they’ve had no parsley. Finally, last Saturday, Vicki Westerhoff’s Genesis Growers, had it. I had my parsley and my motivation for Sunday’s meal. I explained my need to Jimmy at Butcher and Larder, and we traded meat ideas until he came up with the ideal fit of price and style, that would marry with salsa verde, something called “chuck eye” or “poor man’s prime rib.”  This was a hunk of shoulder meat cut closest to the ribs.” Since this meat came from Kristin Boe’s La Pryor farm, it featured more than enough marbling to work as a roast regardless of the spot of the cow it originated. Indeed it went well with salsa verde on Father’s Day.

Not too far after I got home from the market, I got my weekly “Sneak Peek” on the upcoming Tomato Mountain CSA box. And there it was in the list of the box’s contents. Seems, I had my parsley and I would have my parsley. Then a few days later I got the weekly newsletter.  There was Tomato Mountain Farmer Chris Covelli talking up the virtues of parsley. It’s not just an excuse for salsa verde. In fact as Chris rightly explains, it’s not just a garnish or herb, but a vegetable in its own right. To Chris (and me), parsley is a vital component to dishes, as in his pasta sauce, or as the component to the dish as in tabouli. Chris did not mention it, but I like to use parsley almost as one of the greens in a green salad. I’ll sprinkle it any where I can if given the chance.

Chris mentioned that parsley was vitamin packed. It’s more. The strong flavor of parsley is also a sign of it’s load of health promoting phytonutrients. A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a piece on how much of the nutrition has been bred out of fruits and vegetables for the sake of palatability. The article noted how much better wild plants can be for us. The article also noted an easy way to get the benefits of wild plants.

Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.

As a committed locavore, I’ve had to work hard for my beneficial parsley. It’s often not in the markets. When I do get it, the portion is often miserly, keeping me from fully indulging my parsley habits. I’m glad to report that since Chris loves parsley as much as I do, the portion that came in the CSA box was huge (see above). They’ll be a few more meals centered around salsa verde coming up for the Local Family.

*Chris owns the farm that employs my wife.