Back when I ran a catering service and Liz had just started Great Performances, I relied on her servers. But only last month at a college reunion we discovered that besides sharing a passion for local, sustainable food, we are both Barnard grads.
Happily, that meant Barnard called on Great Performances to serve us brilliant meals during the weekend. Laughing at our old school tie, Liz talked about how fresh herbs sparked the dishes we were enjoying and I raved about how they are crammed with healthy benefits as well as flavor.
If you skip the parsley in the battuto for minestrone, its taste will be less like the soups you enjoyed in Tuscany. And salsa without cilantro does not do the same dance in your mouth. When writing The Power Greens Cookbook, I discovered that like kale and other dark leafy greens, these two herbs are super foods, too. They are so loaded with vitamins, minerals—A, K, potassium and more, plus unique substances found only in parsley or cilantro, that now I make recipes using them by the handful.
Cilantro has a license to kill that can protect you – a substance in it actually helps kill salmonella bacteria. During summer cookouts, or any time, isn’t that a great reason to serve salsas loaded with it. Cilantro also contains choline, which helps the brain function better, so heaping it on tacos and tossing a big handful into green smoothies makes serving them even smarter. It is delicious in tropical fruit smoothies, as well.
If you have trouble telling cilantro and parsley apart, you have lots of company. The only times I am certain is with delfino cilantro, a feathery variety that resembles dill, and later in summer, blossoms with delicate, pale pink flowers.
Besides salsas, this pungent Green Harissa makes slipping cilantro into a meal easier. It is great drizzled over grilled savoy cabbage and any other grilled or roasted vegetables.
Savoy Cabbage Drizzled with Green Harissa
In your garden or when you buy parsley, stick to the flat-leaf kind sometimes called Italian parsley. And if you see a variety called titan parsley, grab it and savor its small, sweet leaves.
Flat-leaf parsley can have large, leathery leaves or lighter, more tender ones. I like using the heavier leaves in soups and stews and more tender ones in salads.
Only parsley contains luteolin, a substance that helps to increase your blood’s oxygen capacity. Spinach Gazpacho with Walnuts is a good way to eat lots of it, along with basil and spinach. Plus you whip it up with no cooking required. When the temperature soars, this chilled soup is a sustaining light meal and an elegant starter at summer dinner parties.
Spinach Gazpacho with Walnuts
My mother made a brew she called “parsley tea.” The recipe came from a magazine article calling it Hollywood’s go-to drink before walking the red carpet because parsley can act as a natural diuretic. Using her tea as the base for frosty Parsley Ginger Lemonade, I consider a plus-one benefit to the refreshing flavor of this elixir.
Parsley Ginger Lemonade
Photos: ©The Power Greens Cookbook