Tag Archives: Parsley

Parsley and cucumber salad

One of the most memorable classes I took in college was with Professor B. He was one of the old guard, and beloved at our school: a white-bearded, broad-shouldered fellow, deep-voiced and slyly charismatic. He took great delight in winding his students up over thorny issues and then letting them go. It was a rambling and highly opinionated circus of a class, and at the end of the semester we decided to celebrate by taking Professor B out to dinner as a group. The twenty or so of us packed into a local restaurant and crowded the table with wine and beer and sake (and food, of course). It didn’t take long for the conversation to loosen.

Professor B shared a lot of wisdom and opinions with us that night, about geography and traffic patterns and the state of public education. But the thing that stuck with me most was his advice about dinner on a date. “This is very important. If you’re going to eat garlic on a date, make sure you’re both eating it,” he exhorted us. “But if you can’t get your date to eat garlic, all you have to do is eat parsley. Just eat some parsley. It cancels it out.”

I haven’t been able to eat parsley since without thinking of Professor B. I have no idea if it’s actually the remedy he claimed it was–I haven’t done a controlled experiment, shall we say. But the idea of parsley as a romance-enabler stuck with me. Every time I nibble a parsley spring from a garnish on a restaurant plate, I imagine I’m doing my date a favor. And when I found myself with most of a bunch left after cooking mussels, I decided to try a full-on Valentine’s Day parsley blast, and turn it into a salad.

I would never have guessed that parsley leaves make great salad greens, but they really do. They’re fluffy and flavorful, but without the bitterness that most lettuces and greens have. And unlike delicate and fancy salad greens, parsley doesn’t wilt when dressed; the leaves keep their shape for a long time, even overnight, with no detectable difference in texture. I shaved the parsley leaves off the stems, added some seeded and drained cucumber, and drizzled the whole thing with lemon vinaigrette, for a salad that was bright, crunchy, and feather-light. I could easily imagine this as a palate-cleanser (and garlic-cleanser) alongside any number of rich and romantic main courses.

Forget chocolate. Thanks to Professor B, this is my ultimate Valentine’s Day food.

parsley cucumber salad

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Parsley miso pesto

This one started with a fridge cleanout. I opened one of the crisper drawers and unearthed most of a bunch of parsley, about a week old (leftover from making stuffed tomatoes, I think). The leaves were slowly darkening and turning brittle, and it was clear they were at their use-or-lose point. Of course, when life hands you a bunch of herbs, the natural thing to do is make pesto; but, as the rest of the fridge-cleaning revealed, we had neither nuts nor cheese around. What we did have was a tub of white miso, which I’d bought for some other cooking project that ultimately flopped. So I decided to experiment a little, and see what a vegan, nut-free pesto might be like.

As it turned out, miso makes a surprisingly appealing pesto. I was concerned about texture, but the miso easily replaced both the waxy bulk of the nuts and the salty stickiness of the cheese. It looked and felt just like an ordinary pesto, lightly bound and made moist with olive oil. I used a knife, as per usual, and the whole thing came together quickly and without fuss. In fact, I think it was faster to make than my usual pesto; the knife glided through the miso paste, instead of having to bite chunks of nuts and gather flecks of cheese with each stroke.

I will say, though, that if you came to this expecting an exact replica of Italian pesto, you’d be disappointed. This is different from the nut-and-cheese version, and majorly flavorful in its own right. It’s lighter and more relaxed than the traditional stuff, and the mass that binds the herbs and garlic together is soft instead of slick. The miso is subtle but definitely present; instead of the earth tones of nuts, there’s a grassy undercurrent of soy. The saltiness is deeper and blunter than it would be from cheese. This version feels even more summery than regular pesto, if that’s possible; the greenness of the parsley is really front and center.

Because of the unmistakable miso flavor, I don’t think I’d use this on pasta. Rice, perhaps, or some other grain; maybe as a spread on bread; perhaps as a coating for roasted potatoes. I could see it spread and rolled in a piece of meat, or basted on chicken, or stirred into vegetable soup, or folded into scrambled eggs. But, in my mind, this pesto is really tailor-made for seafood, and specifically fish. I thinned out my batch of pesto with some lemon juice and a splash of hot water, and used it as a sauce on simply seared white fish: incredible. So light, so sophisticated, so much flavor in so few bites.

parsley miso pesto fish

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Clams with baby artichokes

Every once in a while, I’ll order something at a restaurant that’s so wildly delicious, yet apparently so simple, that I’m immediately determined to recreate it at home. This dish is one of those.

Like many of my favorite food travel memories, this one happened in Barcelona. Towards the end of our stay, Sam and I decided to visit the Mercat del Born, only to discover when we got there that it was closed for renovations. Suddenly loose in an unfamiliar neighborhood, with lunchtime looming, we ducked into an upscale-looking place with the auspicious name Cafe Kafka. It was dim and calculatedly deco inside, with a floor-to-ceiling bar and a dining room outfitted in black and grey. Three words jumped off the appetizers list at me: almejas con alcachofas. Clams with artichokes. Two of my favorite foods. I couldn’t resist.

It arrived in a teeny-tiny cast iron pot: a cluster of yawning clam shells, perched on a pile of baby artichokes. The clams were chewy and lovely, as usual, but the artichokes were the real revelation–tooth-tender and almost buttery, drenched in the seawater-sweet liquor from the clams. The combination of lightly vegetal artichoke tang and garlicky salty broth made for even better bread-dunking than usual. I knew immediately I had to recreate it at home.

Unfortunately, I’m dating a bivalve-hater, so my clam experiment had to wait. But a couple weeks ago, when Sam was busy and I was tapped to make an early birthday dinner for my mom, I saw my chance. It turns out that making clams with artichokes is a little more complex than just steaming clams on top of artichokes, but not by much. It’s quick, deceptively simple, and special enough for an Occasion. Good crusty bread is absolutely not negotiable here–every drop of that sweet-salty-tangy potion at the bottom of the bowl should be savored. This may require picking up the bowl and sipping the dregs.

clams and baby artichokes

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Chipping in

Hello, blog.  I’ve missed you.

The past few weeks have been…strange, to say the least.  My father was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly our family had to learn a whole new vocabulary.

Tumor.  Malignant.  Carcinoma.  Radiation.  It’s amazing how a few singular words can suddenly taste so different rolling off your tongue.

Thankfully, the only words in our mouths right now are ones of relief and gratitude.  Dad is healing at warp-speed, and (fingers crossed) on the way to being certified tumor-free.  We’ve moved on from swarming and fussing and waiting with fingernails in our mouths, and settled back down somewhere near normal.  It’s been a wild ride.

Time for some comfort food.

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How to add a much-needed fancy flourish to the end of a stressful week:

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