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The Legend of the Bayleaf

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The bay leaf, also known as the laurel leaf, is a great way to add richness and depth to all of your fish, meat, and vegetable dishes this summer. And flavor is not the only way the bay leaf contains richness; it also happens to be rich in history. The legend of Apollo, Daphne, and the bay leaf is so popular that it inspired the life-size, marble statue by Gian Lorenzo, forever capturing the couple’s tale. As the story goes, Apollo, god of the sun, gets hit by the arrow of love, and he immediately falls madly in love with the daughter of Peneus the river god, named Daphne. However, Daphne had requested to her father early on in her adolescence that she would remain alone for life, because she detested marriage.  Enraptured by Daphne’s beauty, Apollo cannot resist and attempts to convince her to marry him. To Apollo’s surprise, she becomes frightened by him and runs away. As Apollo chases her through the forest, Daphne cries out for help from her father who saves her just as Apollo is about to catch her. Interestingly, Peneus rescues Daphne by turning her into a beautiful laurel tree. Slowly her hair turns to leaves, skin to bark, arms to branches, feet to roots, and last her face becomes the treetop. Daphne’s transformation does not hinder Apollo’s love for her, and in response, he embraces the tree and then cuts off some of her branches to make a wreath of bay leaves, proclaiming it a sacred tree. This wreath of bay leaves has remained a symbol for centuries, being placed on the head of winners during many athletic events, including the infamous Greek games. The sculpture of Daphne and Apollo still stands today in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, and will continue to tell the story the couple who couldn’t be together in life but will remain together through their statue and the bay leaf for eternity.
FEATURED RECIPE:
Pollo alla Lauretana
(copyright 2005-2006 The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati)
This recipe feeds 5 people:
2 lbs thin small chicken breasts
2 tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic – left whole
¼ cup pitted green olives
1 cup dry white wine (preferably Trebbiano)
1 dry hot small pepper (pepperoncino)
Rosemary (handful)
1 fresh bay leaf (laurel leaf)
Pinch of salt
Heat olive oil in frying pan, add chicken cut in pieces and sauté until golden. Add  in wine, salt, garlic, rosemary, hot pepper and cover and let cook for about 20 minutes or until chicken is done.  Add in olives, and cook for another 2 minutes, serve immediately
SUGGESTED WINES:
Valpolicella Wine goes well with this or White Chianti

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