Mint Condition: 4 Seasonal Ways to Use Mint
I love growing mint. It's hardy, it's versatile and it grows fast. This year I'm growing my mint in a container in order to contain the spread. Given half a chance, mint is plant that will dominate an outdoor space.
In spite of its limited growing space, my mint is leaving me in the dust. Last week I set out to snip it down to size and put it to use.
First things first, right? Muddled mint is used in a wide variety of cocktails including classics like Mint Juleps and the Mojito.
Note: Muddling requires a gentle touch, especially with mint. To rough and you risk tearing the leaves and releasing the chlorophyl form the veins. Chlorophyl adds a bitter taste to foods and drinks. simply press on it with a muddler or end of a wooden spoon to release the oils.
Mint-infused simple syrup is another easy and versatile option. Simply bring equal parts sugar and water to a simmer until sugar disolves. Steep a sprig or two of mint in the syrup till the flavor is to your liking. Store chilled in an airtight container for a up to a month. Try it in my signature summer drink:
- Two parts Vodka
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 part mint-infused simple syrup (or plain simple syrup and a sprig of gently massaged mint to release oils.
- Splash of Club Soda
Pour all ingredients into an iced filled shaker. Shake and pour. Add sprig of mint and lemon wedge not.
*Pretty sure this is called something else in the real world, but we're at my house so...
2. GREMOLATA: THE CATSUP OF ITALY
OK, so catsup is probably the catsup of Italy. But Gremolata is essentially an Italian condiment, most often found in Milanese cooking to accompany dishes like Osso Bucco.
Traditionally Gremolata is a mix of super-fresh ingredients: flat leaf parsley, lemon zest and garlic, all finely minced and combined. Similar to Pesto, Gremolata's ingredients can be altered to suit your tastes and your dish. In this case, I combined the parsley with finely chopped mint leaves.
Traditional Gremolata Recipe
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Two minced garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1-cup of parsley leaves, finely chopped
3. Zuchhini Pasta with Mint Pesto
There is almost no wrong way to make Pesto as long as you keep your proportions in check. This is a dish I love because it combines two summer crops that tend to over run: Mint and Zucchini. So, for that reason it is like summer on a plate.
A pound of zucchini will create two nice sized dishes of "pasta". I like to toss half of the spiralized zucchini around in a lightly oiled pan for a few minutes and then mix with the uncooked half. It adds some complexity to the taste and texture. Toss in a few table spoons of pesto and serve. Again, with a side of wine.
My Pesto Recipe (which is pretty much the traditional Pesto recipe)
- Four cups of packed basil and mint leaves.
- 2 fresh-as-can-be (or blanched) garlic cloves
- 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite toasted nut (I use whatever I have on hand: pine nuts, walnuts or almonds).
- 1/4 cup of a hard Italian cheese (like parmesan)
- 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coarse salt to taste
Pulse (or use a mortar and pestle) the first four ingredients until well combined. Slowly drizzle in the EVOO until a nice paste forms. Add coarse salt to taste. This makes approximately 1 cup of Pesto. Freeze what you don't use in an ice cube tray.
4. When all else fails: Sip it, Chop it or Freeze it
I spent all week pausing before everything I ate, wondering if it would taste good with a hint of mint. A few other quick and easy options:
- Hot tea, cold tea: Steep mint leaves and simple syrup in a teapot; Steep a few sprigs in your cold brew.
- Cubed watermelon and/or fresh berries: Chiffonade some mint (roll up like a cigar and cut into ribbons) and combine. Pretty and healthy.
- Ice Cubes: Freeze a leaf or two in jumbo cubes and use all summer for some refreshing prettiness.
Now about that basil...