The smell of parsley makes me think of Passover, and the Seders we had at our house.
All through the years when I was growing up, with different friends each time, I remember those dinners, when my mom would make a big meal that everyone raved 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 the Israelites while they were in Egypt, before God parted the Red Sea and brought them out of captivity.
Until last night, that was the only meal where I’ve ever eaten parsley on its own. I’ve had it in plenty of things – like Thanksgiving stuffing, where it reduces from leafy stalks to tender, fragrant herbs on the stove, drenched in butter and sauteed 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. 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 Parsley Rice Salad, adapted from Food + Wine. Besides the fact that this recipe calls for a full cup of packed, chopped parsley (which is exactly how much I had! Do you believe in fate?), it also requires half of 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. I already knew I’d like it, when I saw the olive oil and fresh lemon juice listed among the ingredients. Between us, these two staples can usually make me like just about anything.
It took maybe 5 minutes to pull together because I had leftover cooked rice on hand, but even with that added step if I’d had to make it, it’s 20 minutes, tops — especially if you happen to have a good quality rice cooker.
The Food + Wine article that inspired me to try this dish 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.
Plus, since this simple side is made without any onions or garlic, and it’s flavored with parsley, peppers, and lemon, it’s low FODMAP-friendly!
And don’t forget, rice is a gluten-free grain, meaning those with celiac or a gluten intolerance can enjoy it as well. This dish is perfect for potlucks, and it’s likely to be on the safe list for friends and family with food allergies and intolerances.
If you’re feeling really ambitious and want to be able to make this salad with produce from your own garden, you’ll love these helpful articles on growing sweet bell peppers and growing parsley from our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
And as far as taste? Well, this very healthy, very easy salad is 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 really like it, and I’m having some again for lunch today — although, to be completely honest, I think the parsley flavor will take some getting used to, at least while I have Elijah’s chair and ten drops of grape juice and matzo piled with haroset on my mind.
Next time, I’d chop the herb more finely, and I might reduce the quantity a bit. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to meet your taste preferences — that’s the fun of cooking, especially when you’re introducing new flavors and ingredients.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mise en Place
To make this dish, I used leftover white basmati rice, cooked with a little butter, and reheated on the stove. If you don’t have leftover rice on hand like I did, go ahead and make your rice now, using a rice cooker or on the stovetop.
Wash the parsley thoroughly and chop to your desired fineness. Tiny bits or larger bits, the choice is yours to make.
Be sure to reach for Italian flat leaf, not curly parsley. The texture of the curly type is much coarser.
Wash the lemon, wipe it dry with a paper towel, and zest it with a microplane.
Now, juice the same lemon and set both the zest and juice aside for the dressing.
Wash the sweet Italian frying pepper. Also known as Cubanelles, these are a bit longer and narrower than bell peppers, with skins that are a lighter shade of green.
Don’t confuse them with Italian long hots! These are not meant to be spicy.
If you want, you can also use a mini sweet bell pepper for this, in the color of your choice. I used a red one since that’s what I had on hand, and I think it provides a nice contrast with the green of the fresh herbs.
Remove the seeds, and cut the pepper into a small dice using a sharp knife.
Get the olive oil from the cupboard along with the salt and pepper. Freshly ground pepper is best, since you’ll get the most flavor from freshly ground spices. Time to reach for your trusty pepper mill!
Step 2 – Make the Dressing
You can make the dressing separately, but I usually like to save a dish. so I’ll make it in the same bowl that I’ll use to make the salad instead.
Place the lemon juice and lemon zest in a large wooden salad bowl, and whisk while pouring in the olive oil in a thin stream. Continue whisking to form an emulsion, then add salt and pepper to taste. I like to use a medium-sized balloon whisk for this step.
How do you know if your dressing has emulsified? You’ll no longer see any oil floating on the top. Instead, the oil and lemon juice will be uniform, smooth, and fully combined. Adding a dab of mayo or mustard can help to stabilize the emulsion if you need it.
Step 3 – Assemble the Salad
Add the rice, and toss with the dressing until well combined.
Add the parsley and pepper next. Fold these ingredients into the salad until well combined. Give it a taste, and season with a little more salt and pepper if you need to.
This is an amazing dish served warm or at room temperature. Be sure to include lemon wedges for an extra spritz of juice before you dig in.
I am such a big fan of this bright and fragrant dish, and I love that it’s so versatile. I served it alongside these shrimp tacos and it was truly amazing. This is definitely a great addition to any Taco Tuesday ensemble.
This recipe makes a great side dish, or an equally delicious lunch. Plus, it comes together in just minutes, and it’s easy to to double, triple, or make even more if you’re serving a crowd. The leftovers are great too – I love how the flavors meld together after a night spent in the fridge.
What would you pair this delightful salad with? Let us know in the comments below! You can find all of our leafy green and grain based salad recipes here. But here are some of our favorites:
Don’t forget to Pit It!
Photos by Leslie Morrison, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Leslie Morrison and Allison Sidhu. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on July 30th, 2009. Last updated: December 31, 2019 at 4:46 am.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.