Parsley's role goes beyond mere plate decoration

March 13, 1996|By Irene Sax | Irene Sax,LOS ANGELES TIMES NEWS SERVICE

I'm sick of stodge. I'm tired of stew, and of mashed potatoes, and of what food writers like to call "elemental" soups. I'm ready to eat something fresh.

But even though temperatures are rising and spring seems a possibility, fresh food -- really fresh, not flown from another hemisphere -- is months away. And so I turn to parsley, an old friend that tastes like everything that's fresh and green in the world.

Once, parsley was the only fresh herb I could find in winter, and it was always curly parsley. Recipes would say that "Italian parsley, if you can find it," was better, but I never could find it. (And I'm still not sure if it's better, or just different.) Now, of course, we get Italian flat-leaf parsley all year-round, as we do fresh dill, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, cilantro and even basil.

But the availability of other herbs is no reason to ignore parsley. It isseasoning mixtures: "bouquet garni" and "fines herbes." Chopped with garlic, parsley provides the freshness in Provencale "persillade"; add lemon zest and it gives Italian food "gremolata."

Here are some recipes that will wake your late-winter palate. The soup, a thick, jade broth that provides a lot of comfort for very few calories, is served at JoJo, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant in New York City.

The frittata is a classic Italian dish. It makes a nice light supper with a green salad, bread and marinara sauce sparked with hot red pepper flakes.

And the chopped salad is a recipe I got years ago from a friend who was an indomitable party-giver. She put it out at cocktail time with sliced baguettes and roast beef cut paper-thin. Guests put a sliver of beef on a piece of bread and piled it high with the salad. But don't even think of making it if you're not crazy about garlic and anchovies.

I've been taught to keep parsley in a glass, with the stems stuck in water, like flowers in a vase. Put a plastic bag over the leafy tops, and you create a miniature greenhouse that keeps the herb fresh and green for two full weeks.

JoJo's parsley soup

Makes 4 servings

1 teaspoon butter

1 small onion, sliced

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced

1 small leek, white only, sliced

1 quart water

2 bunches parsley

2 teaspoons salt

pepper

In a heavy pot, melt butter and saute onion, parsnips and leek for 5 minutes. Add water and parsley stems and cook for 20 minutes, until parsnip slices are soft. Put in food processor and puree until smooth. Pour back into pot. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch parsley leaves in water for 1 minute. Remove and shock in ice water to stop the cooking. Add to blender or processor with 2 cups of parsnip broth. Puree, add to rest of soup with salt and pepper.

Parsley frittata

Makes 4 servings

8 eggs

1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves, minced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons fine bread crumbs

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add parsley, Parmesan, crumbs, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet and swirl to coat the pan. Add garlic and cook gently for 1 minute. Add egg and parsley mixture. Lower heat and cook slowly, stirring often, until eggs have formed small curds and frittata is firm except for the top. Place pan under hot broiler or in heated 400 degree oven to cook the top and brown it lightly. Remove from oven. Let cool 2 minutes. Place a plate over the top and invert frittata onto it. Let cool to room temperature.

Parsley-anchovy salad

Makes 16 to 18 servings

2 cans anchovies

8 cloves garlic, peeled

8 cups parsley leaves, about 10 bunches

2 red onions, sliced thin

1 10-ounce bag grated carrots

1 large or 2 small sweet red peppers, julienne

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Drain and rinse the anchovies and put in the food processor. Drop in garlic cloves, one at a time, with the motor running. Scrape into large bowl. Chop the parsley leaves coarsely with a knife (don't use the processor, which can turn them to a puree) and add to the bowl with the onion, carrots and peppers. In a second bowl, beat vinegar, oils, hot pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Add to salad and marinate at least 6 hours, tossing occasionally. Before serving, drain dressing if necessary.

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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