Cooking With Marvelous Mint
Today, I am taking part in Summer Fest.
Margaret Roach (awaytogarden blog) created this blogging project as a way to share “fresh-from-the-garden” recipes and tips. This week’s theme is HERBS and since I have been writing about herbal cooking and gardening for over 22 years, I just HAD to participate! This is my contribution on “Cooking with Mint”.
Mint is one of those unappreciated, underutilized herbs in the kitchen. Most people only think of it as an ingredient in chocolate recipes or as a garnish in ice tea. But mint is one of the few herbs that works exceptionally well in both savory and sweet dishes. It combines well with stronger herbs like rosemary and cooling herbs like lemon balm, cilantro and parsley.
Did you know that there are literally hundreds of different varieties of mint? It all started with about 20 species of mint that crossed and re-crossed until literally hundreds of different mints were created. Everything from apple mint to orange mint can be found at specialty nurseries around the country.
But of all the different mint varieties out there, spearmint and peppermint are still the most widely known and the most popular in the kitchen. Spearmint is so common that it is usually just labeled “mint” or “the best mint” by nurseries. Cross breeding has created many different spearmint leaf shapes, but you can still determine if you have spearmint by the fragrance. It is cooling without the menthol overtones of peppermint. If however, the mint you find smells like a candy cane, it is peppermint.
Yes, mint is the perfect ice tea garnish and yes, you can make a killer hot tea with its leaves. But try making a limeade-mint drink this summer or add a little mint to your next fruit smoothie and you will see that mint can bump up the flavor a notch. It adds a coolness that is much needed when the weather warms up.
Mints combines well with just about all fruit desserts. Try mint with fruit salad, strawberry shortcake, sorbet, fruit parfaits or cobbler. You are probably already familiar with how well mint combines with chocolate. To change a chocolate recipe to chocolate-mint, just flavor the liquid of the recipe (milk, cream, water, etc.) with fresh mint leaves. This is best done by heating the liquid, adding fresh mint, covering and letting it set for ten to thirty minutes. Then strain out the mint and use the liquid in the recipe.
SIDE DISHES AND ENTREES
Try mint with carrots, peas, corn or new potatoes. I kid you not. It works! You can also add some mint to rice or couscous for a little variety in your side dishes. Mint also gives a nice contrast and balance to spicy ingredients like jalapeños. Add a pinch of mint to your next spicy meal and you will see what I mean.
As for main dishes, mint is most closely associated with lamb and pork recipes. But it can be used on chicken or beef as well, especially if combined with something sweet (like citrus) and something spicy (like hot peppers).
If you are interested in experimenting with mint, look to Mediterranean or Indian cuisine for some more delicious combinations. In the meantime, try some of the recipes below this summer.
6 ears of corn on the cob
butter or margarine
18 sprigs of fresh mint
Shuck and rinse the corn. Pat dry. Generously butter and carefully place 3 mint sprigs lengthwise on each ear of corn. Wrap ears individually in plastic wrap and fold down the ends so that it is completely sealed. (The plastic wrap will hold the herbs in place.) You do not need to poke a hole for venting. It is actually faster if it is kept sealed and steams the corn inside. Microwave 3-4 ears at a time for 8-12 minutes on high or until corn is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. This recipe is also delicious with other herbs substituted for the mint such as thyme, rosemary or sage.
Limeade can be a nice change from the standard lemonade of summer, but if you prefer, you may substitute lemons in this recipe. If you do, you may need to also adjust the sugar to your taste.
½ cup fresh spearmint leaves
6 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine spearmint leaves with just two cups of the water. Heat to boiling, turn of heat and cover. Let mixture sit 20 minutes. Strain out and discard mint. Add sugar to the mint water and heat until sugar is dissolved (about two minutes). In a large pitcher, combine mint water, remaining four cups water, lime juice and lemon juice. Stir to mix. Chill and serve over ice.
This recipe is great for summer parties and even the kids will like it. It calls for peppermint, but you can use any mint in the garden.
1 ½ cups water
1 cup fresh peppermint leaves
12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 liters lemon-lime carbonated beverage
extra mint sprigs for garnish
In a small saucepan, combine water and mint. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Set aside for 30 minutes, and then strain into a large pitcher. Discard mint. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Chill and serve over ice with fresh mint sprigs in each glass.
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