Friday, July 6, 2012

Mint, Mint, Mint

Many folks' experience with mint is merely as a garnish on desserts.  But mint is an amazingly delicious and versatile herb with myriad uses, both sweet and savory.  Its cool flavor is a great foil to hot chilis.  I like to chop a little mint into tomato salsas and I almost always add chopped mint to my ceviche.  Mint plays nicely with citrus - mint lemonade is a terrific summertime quaff, and mint is especially tasty with chocolate.

Today, I give you three delicious ways to enjoy mint:  Mint tea, mint-cilantro chutney, and mojitos.

Mint Tea
Mint tea is a super easy way to enjoy mint.  Simply dry the leaves, then pour boiling water over the dried leaves.  Allow to steep for 2-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.

I like to hang fresh mint sprigs from a rack.  They dry out in a few days.  When dry, remove the leaves from the stems.  Compost the stems and store the leaves in an air-tight container.  You can crush the leaves or leave them whole, your preference.  Use a tea ball or a little strainer to steep the tea.

Mint tea is also great on ice with lemon or lime, with or without sweetener.  If you like your iced tea sweet, mix up some simple syrup and keep it in the fridge.  The sugar is already dissolved in the simple syrup, no undissolved mass of granulated sugar at the bottom of the glass.  To make simple syrup:  Mix 1 C granulated sugar with 1 C water in a small saucepan.  Heat and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Bring to a simmer.  Cool.  Store in the fridge.

Mint and simple syrup are ingredients in the refreshing summer cocktail called a mojito.  There are many ways to make a mojito.  Here's one of my favorite recipes.  For each serving:

10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 fresh lime, or more to taste
2 T simple syrup (see recipe above)
3/4 C ice cubes
1-1/2 oz. white rum
1/2 C club soda

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a glass.  Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime and add 2 T simple syrup.  With a spoon or a pestle, crush the mint leaves with the lime juice and simple syrup.  Add the ice.  Pour in the rum and club soda.  Stir.  Add more lime juice or simple syrup to taste.

Mint-Cilantro Chutney
If you want to get a little more adventuresome with mint, try this scrumptious mint-cilantro chutney.  It's often served with Indian food, but it's a wonderful condiment on roasted potatoes, grilled meat and fish, and practically anything battered and fried.

1 C fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 C fresh mint leaves
1/2 small onion
2-3 T water
1 T lime juice, or to taste
1 T grated fresh ginger
1-2 t chopped green chili, or to taste
1 t sugar
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

If you don't have a food processor, you can do this with a mortar and pestle, but it will take a little more time and energy.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Cabbage, mint, and parsley;

From JR Organics:  Red leaf lettuce and Swiss chard;

From Sage Mountain Farm:  8-ball squash, dried purple Italian garlic, yellow candy spring onions, purple carrots, French breakfast radishes, and purple scalliuons;

From Sweet Tree Farms:  Yellow peaches and white nectarines; and

From Weiser Family Farms:  Baby carrots, assorted melons, and baby beets.



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