Consider the parsley.

America’s salad landscape has since gotten so exciting since my childhood salad days comprised of iceberg/romaine lettuce salad mix dressed in Ranch, Thousand Island or Caesar Salad dressing. As the modern salad becomes a main dish in its own right, dressed in various condiments and accompanied by meats or seafood, here’s a fresh ingredient to be the main star of your salad recipes.

From top left, clock-wise: Butterhead Lettuce; Lacinato Kale; Spinach; Arugula, Leaf Lettuce; Romaine Lettuce; Endive; Kale.

Parsley.

Wait, wait, wait… parsley? You mean the green garnish I pick off of my X because I don’t want to eat it? Or the unidentifiable green speck along with all those other herbs on my X? Yes, that green thing.

Flat- vs. Curly-Leaf

Parsley, which belongs to the Umbelliferae, or carrot, family, comes in two main cultivars: Italian, or flat-leaf parsley and curly/curly-leaf parsley. The two varieties have distinct appearances and flavors.

Italian parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) has broad, flat leaves that display a color ranging from dark green to leafy green. Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is identifiable by thick, bright green “curly” leaves. While both types of parsley contain the same flavoring ingredients——around 45 different compounds have been identified in parsley essential oil in total, with menthatriene being the main flavor compound——flat-leaf parsley is more robust in flavor than curly parsley.

While both varieties are commonly in the kitchen as flavoring or garnish, there’s so much more to parsley.

Benefits

Parsley is highly nutritious, containing many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is a rich source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone health——a single tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley provides more than 70% of the recommended daily intake——as well as vitamins C and A, and folate and iron. The herb also contains high levels of myricetin, a common plant-derived flavonoid that has a wide range of values, including strong anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Moreover, used in cooking, parsley offers both the fresh color and vibrant, clean flavor. Parsley’s green flavor profile——mildly bitter laced with a touch of earthiness——can stimulate all or most taste receptors on your tongue. Like the way that a little lemon juice brightens up savory dishes, parsley can greatly enhance the flavor of a dish.

And here’s how you can incorporate this humble herb into your salad dossier!

How-to

Obviously, I am no queen of salads but using parsley in my book for a salad is like using any other leafy greens, simply:

Wash and chop coarsely the green of choice

  • For your green of choice, consider going with the milder, more subtle-flavored curly parsley. This variety’s thicker leaves invites a wonderful, distinct texture. Coarsely chopping the leaves helps to release flavor molecules and preserve the texture.

Add additional salad ingredients

  • A few of my personal favorites include cherry tomatoes, almond slices, and goat cheese.

Toss with dressing of choice

  • I like tangy olive oil and vinegar dressing. I typically use a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3——one apart your vinegar of choice and 2- to 3-part extra virgin olive oil (courtesy of Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food, of which I have a signed copy!).

Easy right——I literally whittled it down to three action verbs, so get to it!

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