Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday: Where's the chicken?

Polenta with braised maitake mushrooms and parmesan, served with sweet-spiced carrots with chickweed.

What would we do without Elizabeth Schneider's Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini? We don't know. Both of these recipes come from her book, which is always our go-to source when we encounter a wholly new veggie (or fungus, as the case may be). Chickweed, another foraged spring green, has a flavor reminiscent of cornsilk when raw, but it wilted into a mild, chewy mass when mixed with simmered carrots, ginger powder and allspice. It was traditionally given to chickens, who apparently like it - hence the name. Maitake, also known as "hen of the woods," has a meaty - even gamy - flavor and aroma. Here it was braised with garlic, rosemary and sherry, and used as a topping for soft polenta.

(We suppose the use of chickweed and hen-of-the-woods mushroom makes this a chicken-themed meal, despite the lack of actual chicken.)

As a belated celebration of Giselle's last-EVER day of law school classes, we cracked open this pretty bottle of dandelion wine:

Bottle of wine, fruit of the dandelion

Giselle has been curious about dandelion wine for years, ever since reading the Ray Bradbury book of the same name. It really is made with dandelion petals, mixed with sugar, a souring agent, and some other substances which assist in fermentation. (As the man at the Chateau Rennaisance stand told us, "it takes a lot of flowers.") Dandelion wine did not disappoint: it was lightly herbal but not over-sweet like some fruit wines can be, and not at all flowery. It was more similar to a mildly sweet white grape wine than you might think.

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