Monday, March 9, 2009

Our Signature Martini—The Opulent Opossum

Most of the recipes I’ll be sharing here are good ol’ recipes—family treasures, simple things that Gourmet Magazine doesn’t bother with. But this recipe is different: I invented it! It’s not good ol’ anything. It does, however, pay homage to my Grandma S, who loved martinis, and to my Grandpa R, who loved elderberry wine. Here it is.

The Opulent Opossum Martini

1.5 oz. gin
splash of elderberry wine

Shake with ice; strain and pour into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a spring of pigweed.


What’s pigweed??!! Well . . . we call it that, but it’s actually not a “true” pigweed (in the genus Chenopodium). Common names of plants are just a mess. So, what goes for “pigweed” at our house is actually purslane, Portulaca oleracea, which is a common damned, creeping weed of sidewalks, gardens, and fields. It’s almost succulent and has pretty leaves. It’s a wild edible.

The root systems of purslane must be made of millions of microscopic, immortal fibers, ’cause when I yank one out of our front planter, sixty tiny new ones sprout up in its place. I kid you not. Apparently hogs like to eat purslane. And yes, like dandelions and other pestiferous weeds, it originally came from Europe. You can actually buy purslane sometimes at the farmer’s market (people use it in salads, as potherbs, etc.), but come on. Quit spraying Roundup for a while, and you’ll have your own crop eventually.

Oh, another thing: If you want, of course, you can substitute some other offensively weedy wild edible (young dandelion greens, clover, sorrel a.k.a. sourgrass, shepherd’s purse, flowering tips of henbit, etc.) as the garnish. These weeds are really quite pretty, especially when they’re drifting around in a martini glass.

Pigweed or peppergrass, it’s the spirit that counts.

(Some information in this post is from Wild Edibles of Missouri, second edition, by Jan Phillips, 1995, but don’t go looking in there for drink recipes. Oh, and in the pictures? That’s henbit as a garnish. It’s the only thing that’s out this early in the spring! Thanks, Sue, for the photo shoot. I’m glad you enjoyed your photographer’s bonus: drinkin’ the props!)

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