>Mint—Spring’s Basil

>

Mint is a love-it or leave-it kind of herb. Usually the first thing people think of to do with it is tea or mojitos. But, there is much, much more to the humble, delicious spearmint. When we started our mint patch, I struggled with many tasteless varieties, only to stumble upon a variety from the midwest (land of Mint Juleps) called “The Best”. How could I go wrong with that? Suffice to say, not all mints are created equal.


My favorite things to do with mint, are add them to a green salad, or to a pasta salad. Honestly, I use it in place of basil when there is no basil. It’s green with beets, tomatoes, and onions. Potato salad with sweet onions and mint is delicious. Here are some of my favorite mint recipes.

BEET-GREEN PASTA
One of my favorite first-dishes of spring.

1/2 cup currants or raisins
3 to 4 bunches Beet Greens (about 2 pounds)
1 small bunch Fresh Mint
2 medium Onions
2 to 3 cloves Garlic
1 bay Leaf
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 pound Dried Small Pasta
Salt and Pepper

1. Cover the currants with boiling water and let them soak for 15 minutes and drain them. While they are soaking, wash the beet greens, strip the leaves from the stems and cut the leaves into chiffonade (thin strips). Chop the stems into 2-inch lengths. Stem the mint, wash the leaves and chop them into chiffonade.

2. Put on a pot of salted water for the pasta. Peel the onions and the garlic and chop them both fine. Sauté them with the bay leaf over medium heat in 1/4 cup of the olive oil for about 5 minutes or until transparent. Add the beet leaves and stems and the currants and cook 5 minutes more, covered. Meanwhile, when the water has come to a boil, add the pasta. Uncover the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and add the mint leaves. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss well with the sauce, moistening it with a ladle of the pasta water and the rest of the olive oil. Serve immediately.

SHELLEY’S PEA SHOOT PASTA SALAD
1 bunch Pea Shoots
1 4 oz pkg. Port Madison Farms Fresh Chevre
1 bunch Fresh Mint
A few Scallions
12 ounces Small Dry Pasta
Salt and Pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, trim the bottom off of the pea shoot bunch and discard the rubber band, cut the bunch in half lengthwise. Chop the scallions and set aside. Separate the mint leaves and cut into chiffonade or chop.


2. In a large bowl, mush the chevre with the scallions and mint. Add salt and pepper to taste. Wait patiently for the water to boil.

3. Drop the pea shoots into the water to wilt—this only takes about 30-60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander. Then put in the pasta and cook until al dente. When done, drain in a colander.

4. Add the pea shoots to the chevre mixture and combine. Add the pasta to the bowl and mix together. Serve hot or cold.


MINT MASHED POTATOES

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
5 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 bunch fresh mint
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Cut potatoes into eighths, and place in a small stockpot. Add the milk, salt, and all but about 3 mint sprigs. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium high, and gently boil the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Remove potatoes from the heat. Remove and discard the mint sprigs, and drain potatoes in a colander reserving about 2/3 cup milk. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl. Add butter and reserved milk; season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly to combine. Pick the leaves from remaining mint sprigs, slice into thin ribbons, and stir into the mashed potatoes. Serve immediately.

MINT JULEPS

2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
24 mint leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
2 cups finely crushed ice
1 cup bourbon

1. Combine sugar, lemon juice, and mint leaves in a pitcher. Crush well with a wooden spoon. Add ice and bourbon, and mix well. Pour into silver tumblers, garnish with mint sprigs, and serve.


MINT (or other herb) SODAS

1/2 cups Sugar
3/4 ounce Fresh Mint (or other herb, such as basil, lemon verbena, mint, tarragon, or thyme)
1 teaspoon Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
Ice, for serving
Sparkling Water or club soda, for serving.

1. Put sugar and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat; add herbs. Cover; let cool completely.

2. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard herbs. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

3. Fill glasses with ice. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons syrup; top with sparkling water or club soda, and stir.

SPRING GREEN SOUP

1 cucumber, peeled
1/2 pound pencil-thin asparagus, tough ends trimmed
2 cups cold water
1/4 pound spinach, tough stems removed, rinsed well
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 to 6 fresh sorrel leaves, for garnish (optional)

1. Halve cucumber lengthwise; cut one half into eighths and the other into 1/4- inch dice. Set aside. Cut asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths. Puree in a blender with 1/2 cup cold water until smooth.

2. Add spinach, scallions, cucumber eighths, and another 1/2 cup water. Blend until thoroughly pureed. Add avocado, mint leaves, and lemon juice; puree until smooth, adding remaining water a little at a time until soup is desired consistency. Add salt, and season with pepper. Scrape down sides of blender with a rubber spatula, and puree 5 seconds more.

3. Cut sorrel into fine strips, if using. Divide soup among four bowls; garnish each with diced cucumber, sorrel, and a mint sprig. Serve immediately.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s