Mint condition is an added plus
VersatileOften overlooked in cooking

Mint condition is an added plus

Herb adds a burst of cool freshness and zip to food that is most welcome, especially this time of year

iStock photo
iStock photo

Mint is an herb that is often overlooked in cooking. Sure, we might stick a sprig in a glass of iced tea or muddle a handful for a batch of mint juleps on Derby Day but, in general, we don’t integrate fresh mint in many recipes.

These days, my mint plants are robust, producing a bountiful crop of flavorful leaves, and I have been finding different ways to use them in the kitchen. They add a burst of cool freshness and zip to food that is most welcome, especially this time of year.

A close friend just returned from France, where she took a cooking class, the lucky jeune fille. She reported that the instructor featured mint in several recipes, one of which we replicated as an appetizer for a recent shared dinner.

The same evening, my husband, the renowned mixologist, made me a delightful citrusy cocktail with a few muddled mint leaves, and then for lunch on Sunday, I made a tuna salad featuring mint. Finally, Monday morning’s pre-yoga breakfast was a mint-infused fruit smoothie.

Guacamole with mint
Serves four as an appetizer
This riff on the Mexican classic gives a summery zing to this healthy vegan dip.

2 ripe avocados
1 tablespoon chopped onion
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 mint leaves
Mash the avocado flesh with the onion, lemon juice and salt.
Rinse the mint leaves, then pat them dry. Stack about six leaves together and roll them into tiny, tight cylinders. Slice the rolls into teeny discs, separate the strands and sprinkle them into the guacamole.
Mix the mint into the guacamole and serve with chips, crackers, raw veggies or toast points.

Lem-mint cocktail
Serves one
My husband Matt is an excellent mixologist. He pulled this summer refresher together on Saturday night before we headed out to dinner with friends. The vodka is a lovely addition to enliven the drink, but it would be delicious with water or seltzer as a low-octane option.
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 shot glass simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 shot vodka
4 mint leaves
Cracked ice (Matt is particular about his ice; he places cubes in a Ziploc bag and pounds them with a meat tenderizer to achieve the right size and shape. I am far less picky.)

Mix the lemon juice, vodka and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker or small pitcher.
Place three mint leaves in the bottom of a serving glass and press them with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Fill the glass part way with crushed ice, and pour the lemon mixture over it. Garnish with the remaining mint leaf.
For simple syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Use as desired.

Tuna salad with lemon and mint
Serves two to three
Perhaps the Saturday night cocktail inspired this lunch — which I made the following noon. It was wonderful on a bed of lightly dressed baby greens served with crackers, but it would be equally delicious as a sandwich on whole wheat or rye bread with lettuce and tomato.

2 cans solid white tuna, drained
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 mint leaves, chopped finely
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Break the tuna into small pieces in a medium-sized bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Banana berry mint smoothie

Serves one generously

2 frozen bananas
8 fresh mint leaves
1 cup milk
1 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon honey

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately. pjc

Keri White writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

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