One of the most versatile herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking is, without a doubt, parsley. It is commonly used as a garnish, but more popularly used as a spice. There are two main varieties of parsley: curly leaf and flat leaf. Curly leaf is probably the most recognizable, as restaurants often use it as a garnish on their plating, but both varieties are widely used in cooking.
How to Use Parsley in Your Cooking
Because of its light scent and fresh taste, parsley can be used in anything from soups to sauces to vegetables. In Middle Eastern cuisine, parsley is one of the main ingredients in dishes such as tabbouleh, a salad using bulgur, mint, parsley, and vegetables, and is the main herb used in stuffing for grape leaves. As a garnish, parsley can be chopped and sprinkled in soups, hummus, or mixed with ground meat, such as lamb. More times than not, you will find parsley as the most common herb used in Middle Eastern recipes.
One of the greatest things about parsley is that it can be found almost anywhere, fresh or dried. It is also easy to grow and perfect for the home garden. Fresh parsley is perfect for that last-minute addition to a dish, providing texture, color, and a burst of clean flavor. Though it takes twelve pounds of fresh parsley to make one pound of dried parsley, dried parsley is still the most commonly used form of the herb. Fresh is always best, but dried will do in a pinch.
Dried vs. Fresh
One advantage of using dried parsley over fresh is when it comes to storing the herb. Fresh parsley only lasts about two weeks when kept in the refrigerator. Sprinkling the leaves with a small amount of water and storing in a plastic bag usually works best. On the other hand, dried parsley stores for a much longer time. As long as dried parsley is kept in an airtight container it will retain its flavor for approximately one year.
Another method for storing parsley is freezing it. This is the best method if you have parsley in your herb garden and end up with more than you can use. Parsley can be frozen chopped and stored in freezer bags, or it can also be chopped and mixed with water and frozen in ice cube trays. Either method will keep up to six months.
With its flavor, scent, color, and texture, parsley is the perfect addition to any Middle Eastern dish. Parsley is great for experimenting in the kitchen and for getting creative with its use in various dishes. In Middle Eastern cuisine, you can never go wrong with parsley.