March 23, 2010

When Given Parsley, Make Tabbouleh

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on Italian parsley

My garden is very slow to wake up from its winter nap. It's as if it is gun shy and weary from the extremes it has endured this past year- record breaking heat and drought followed by an usually cold and wet winter. A few plants are goners and I have my fingers crossed for a few more to pull through.

But one bright note is the Italian parsley. It  survived the cold winter with some help from some sheets and overturned plastic pots and is just loving the cool nights and warm days.  It's inspiring me in the kitchen, too.

Last year at this time the parsley, bronze fennel and orange tree were covered with lots and lots of butterfly caterpillars so they got more parsley than I did. This little guy shown on the leaf of my cara cara orange tree, is going to become a giant swallowtail butterfly. He disquises himself as bird poop as a protective measure. Pretty neat.

Last years very mild winter allowed the milkweed to overwinter so by mid- April it was hosting monarch cats. The milkweed and the caterpillars are no- shows this spring thus far, so I won't be damaging anyone's habitat when I cut back some of that parsley for tabbouleh. The recipe below is adapted from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" by Martha Hall Foose, a cookbook with tales of the South by a professionally trained chef. It makes use of mint and scallions which are also looking good this time of year.

1 cup medium bulgar, soaked in warm water one hour and drained

2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup fresh mint
grated zest and juice from one lemon
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Pour over drained bulgar, mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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