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Curly-leaf parsley: It's not a second-rate garnish

If iceberg lettuce can be enjoying a comeback, then curly-leaf parsley must be close behind. Though it's plentiful in the markets most of the year, it often takes a back seat to Italian (or flat-leaf) parsley, which is increasingly popular in recipes. Maybe because the texture of curly-leaf parsley can be abrasive and scratchy, it has been relegated to the role of second-rate garnish, something thrown on a plate to add a spot of color, never taste.

But that's a waste, especially because it's full of vitamin C.

HOW TO SELECT: Look for crisp, sprightly green bunches. Avoid any bunch in which the sprigs appear limp, yellow or wilted.

HOW TO STORE: Keep in the refrigerator, covered loosely in a plastic bag. Or stick the stems of a whole bunch in a glass of water, put a plastic bag over the leaves loosely, like a tent, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Wash thoroughly just before using and dry thoroughly just before mincing.

HOW TO USE: Bored with your lettuce salad? Fresh curly-leaf is a great addition, especially when mixed with a handful of other herbs such as basil, tarragon and mint. It works particularly well with these flat-leaf herbs, since its crunchy texture stands out in that combination but doesn't overwhelm. Finely minced fresh parsley is an important ingredient in many grain salads, including tabbouleh (that Lebanese favorite of cracked wheat, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and mint), couscous and fattoush, the cold salad of cucumber, peppers and tomatoes. Or throw it in the food processor with some other herbs, olive oil and Parmesan for a combo pesto, something to toss with pasta at the last minute.

Unlike some other fresh herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, parsley has stems that are not woody, so they can also be finely minced for a pesto or thrown in a soup or stock for flavor.

Parsley destined for the pot or pan is almost always minced. Add it at the last minute, to keep its crisp texture, color and taste intact. It really can transform a panful of sauteed carrots or steamed peas, a bowlful of shrimp scampi or a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.

And all on its own it makes a nice side salad, something that sits on the same table with roast chicken, pasta with marinara sauce or pork chops.

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