Beef Stew and bay legends

I have this faded memory of being at my grandmas house when I was little.  We must have had some family project to do that I was either too little to help with or off playing because I can't remember why we were there or why I was so very cold when we came inside the house. 

I do remember opening the door and having the smell of lushes beef stew hit me like a wave. It had been cooking all day and it seemed like heaven to me.  We sat around the table and Grandma used a huge ladle to serve up the stew. 

I was just about to take my first mouth watering taste..... when Grandma, who was sitting next to me, grabbed my spoon away from me and told me not to eat it because it was POISON.  At first I thought it was a joke, but soon realized she was "dead" serious.  There was some foul play going on....  Who would poison the stew???

It turns out it was a Bay leaf and she had put it in there for "flavor".   I was pretty freaked out so she told me that the person who got the leaf was Lucky and got a wish.  I don't know if that was true before I found it...but it has been our family tradition ever since.

Beef Stew
2 lb stew meat cut into 1 inch cubes
1 t. sea salt
1 t. ground pepper
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (magic) Bay Leaf
1 T. dried thyme leaves
2 large tomatoes
3-4 carrots slice's
4 celery stalks
1/2 cauliflower or cabbage
1 lb. mushrooms (any kind) sliced
3 C. water or tomato juice
32 oz beef or chicken stock
1/2 C chopped parsley

Season the meat with the salt and pepper.  Heat a heavy pot to medium, then add 2 T oil and 2 T water. Steam saute beef until it is browned, about 8 minutes.

Add in the onion and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Then add the water, beef stock, tomatoes, thyme, and bay.  Let it bubble away as you cut up all the veggies.

*As it turns out, bay is not the safest of herbs to ingest.  Remember all the Greek myths about the Oracle of Delphi???  That is a real place and the priestesses chewed bay leaves to connect with the Oracle. (and maybe just to see the pretty colors)

Add all remaining ingredients except for the parsley.  Simmer for several hours and serve with a sprinkle of  chopped parsley.

*potted bay is said to protect you home from thunder storms.
* The winners of the first Olympics were crowned with a wreath of bay laurel and it has been a symbol of esteem, glory and honor ever since.  Many of the Olympic metals even today have a bay wreath pictured.

The stew will cook down as thick as you want.  I don't care for my veggies to be too soft so I always save it when it is more like a thick soup.  Stew is always comforting the day you make it, but gets better the next day when the flavors have had time to blend.

* Bay is also said to attract romantic love.  Before you go making a perfume out of it or anything look up the story of Daphne and Apollo.  She was not in to his vigorous pursuit so she turned herself into a bay tree to escape.  (That may be where the idea that it protects from thunder storms comes from)


cook up some stew and a good story to go along with it...  and what ever you do, don't let any one you love eat the bay leaf.

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