Use your herbs like greens, because that’s what they are

And make a more interesting – and less oppressively large – salad while you’re at it.

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with finding the perfect spinach pie (I had weird interests). And I quickly realized that spanakopita was not it – the bottom layers of phyllo get mushy and the spinach itself has no flavor. But then I discovered fatayer, Lebanese spinach pie. You can often find it at falafel joints. They’re usually individual pies and their crust is breadier, so their flavor is more concentrated. I also learned about pogacas, Turkish cheese pies that usually have some greens thrown in for flavoring – the other end of the spectrum. I figured the key to great spinach pie, then, was adding in lots of flavorings in the form of spices, cooked onions, and cheese. But then I saw this video by Mark Bittman (I so miss his Times column and videos)

Apart from learning about how to make phyllo breadier but still with layers, this video also introduced me to the idea of using greens other than spinach. And not just other tender lettuces, but herbs. That’s when I started using a huge bunch of parsley. Curly parsley – which is apparently out of style? – has a great texture that’s a bit easier to chew than spinach, and doesn’t need to be cooked as much. It also made sense to use a ton of it at once, since it comes in giant bunches but recipes only ever call for a couple of tablespoons. That’s when I realized that I could make spinach pie with just about any green. And, by extension, that I could use herbs like parsley just about anywhere I had been using greens.

So a while back I came up with a grain salad full of parsley that I started making for lunch. I make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week and it’s good cold or slightly warmed. The parsley stays edible way longer than lettuce would with dressing, but isn’t as tough or bitter as raw kale. Here’s how it goes:

Cook 2 cups of farro by simmering for 20-40 minutes in enough broth to cover. While the farro is cooking, make the dressing by whisking or shaking together in a jar the juice of two lemons, an equal amount of olive oil, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, and 1 1/2 tsp honey. When the farro is tender but chewy, drain and toss it with the dressing. Mix in 1 small can of chickpeas, drained, and a large bunch of parsley, roughly chopped. Optional: crisp up 4 or so slices of smoked deli turkey or bacon and add, chopped, to the mixture (the grease from the bacon is a great addition to the dressing if that’s something you eat).