The smell of parsley makes me think of Passover, and the Seders we had at our house, all through my growing up years, with different friends each time, when my mom would make a big meal that everyone would rave about. On those nights, we’d dip sprigs of parsley in salt water—the parsley symbolizing spring and the newness of life, the salt water reminding us of the tears of Israel while they were in Egypt, before God parted the Red Sea and brought them out of captivity.
Until last night, that was the only place I’ve ever eaten parsley on its own. I’ve had it in things—like Thanksgiving stuffing, where it reduces from leafy stalks to bending, fragrant herbs on the stove, drenched in butter and sauted with onions. I know bits of it—dried or fresh—go into all kinds of marinades and rubs, and I know it’s very inexpensive to buy at the store (I want to say it was $0.99 for a bundle in November Wisconsin, which, when you think about it, is kind of amazing).
But when I saw the fat package of it in my CSA box, I figured I may as well give this formerly-only-of-the-holidays herb a chance to stand on its own, a chance for us to get to know each other in a new context.
Enter this Lemon-Rice Parsley Salad adapted from Food + Wine.
Besides the fact that this recipe calls for a full cup of packed, chopped parsley (exactly how much I had! do you believe in fate?), it also requires half a sweet pepper, which was a bonus in my learning-to-use-vegetables plan.
Now, as far as getting out of my comfort zone, I cheated a little with this one, since I already knew I’d like it when I saw the olive oil and lemon juice, which, between us, can usually make me like just about anything. (I read an article once about a famous chef I can’t recall the name of now, who said everything is improved with a little lemon on top. Amen.)
It took maybe 5 minutes to pull together because I had leftover cooked rice on hand, but even with that added step, it’s 20 minutes, tops. The Food + Wine article made a big deal about the health benefits of parsley, which offers vitamins A, C and K, as well as very low calories, so I may as well point that out to you, too.
And, as far as taste? Well, this very healthy, very easy salad was full of flavor, from the olive oil dispersed throughout to the bursts of lemon to the creaminess of the rice and the bitterness of the herbs.
I liked it, and I’m having some in my lunch today—although, transparently, I think the parsley flavor will take some getting used to, at least while I’m still trying not to think of Elijah’s chair and ten drops of grape juice and matzo piled with haroset, while we talk about blood on door posts and death of firstborns. Next time, I’d chop the parsley more finely, and I might reduce it to 3/4 cup or even 1/2 cup—you know, small introductions. For now, we’re starting somewhere.
Lemon Rice-Parsley Salad
Adapted from Food + Wine
One thing I will definitely do differently if I make this again: chop the parsley very finely. Because parsley and I are still on new footing, I want it in teeny-tiny bits, not large, rough pieces I have to chew on, but that is my preference; feel free to tweak for yours.
1 cup cooked rice (I used leftover white basmati rice, with a little butter, reheated on the stove)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped*
1/2 small sweet Italian frying pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: Lemon wedges, for serving
In a large bowl, toss the olive oil and the lemon juice with lemon zest, and then stir in the chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges.