In my kitchen, parsley revives leftovers, flatters the simplest pasta and holds its own as a salad. Far more than a garnish, it's fundamental to soups, stews and sautés. The piney, faintly bitter notes unify assertive ingredients — garlic, hot pepper and lemon — and bring balance to a dish. Compared with other herbs such as marjoram, tarragon, rosemary or cilantro that often overwhelm, parsley may be used with abandon, for it seldom calls attention to itself while it helps its companions shine.
Abundant throughout the year, both flat leaf (aka Italian) and curly leaf parsley are sold in generous bundles. In a pinch, either is fine.
Curly parsley can be less tough and is better for chopping finely, while flat-leaf parsley has a more robust taste, better for flavoring. The stems of both varieties are sharper-tasting, less delicate than the leaves, and they hold up better in long-cooked stocks, stews and braised dishes.
Look for bunches of vibrantly green, perky parsley and avoid any that are wilting, pale and yellowed. The flat-leaf parsley looks like cilantro, an herb sibling, but it's easy to distinguish between the two by smell.
Store parsley as you would cut flowers. Snip off the bottoms, place in a glass of fresh water, cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for at least a week, ready to turn into a quick sauce to garnish a soup, stew, or toss with pasta.
Beth Dooley is the author of "In Winter's Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.