Mint pairs very nicely with many food items. From cucumbers to watermelon, soups to risotto, mint will always enliven a plate. Unfortunately, American cuisine rarely take advantage of mint in recipes. In contrast, many south Asian dishes depend on mint for authenticity in flavor. Whether it is Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, or Laotian cuisine (to name a few), these cultures often reach for mint to freshen the taste of dishes. What would a Vietnamese spring roll be without mint?
Here are a few way you might incorporate mint in your cooking:
- As a salt. Huh? That's right, as a salt. You can dehydrate mint in a microwave and blend it together with salt in a spice-blender to create Mint-salt. The Mint-salt can then be use to flavor, for example, a watermelon-tomato salad, a piece of pan seared salmon, or a vinaigrette.
- In sauces. Creating mint tea is basically the infusion of water with the essence of mint. This process of infusing a liquid with the essence of mint can be applied in making sauces. For example, you can make a wonderful cream sauce that will go nicely with a mushroom stuffed ravioli. Saute 2tbs finely chopped onion in blended oil (olive/canola oil) till translucent. Add the juice of one lemon and reduce till syrupy. Add 1 cup of cream and handful of mint. Reduce cream by 50 percent of until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Do not reduce cream more than 50 percent. Strain sauce to get rid of mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
- In soups. There are many soup recipes that utilize mint in a prominent manner. Here is a unique and healthy recipes that you can easily make. Cold Green Peas and Mint soup is ideal for summer. Bring about 2-3 cups of water to boil. Once boiling, turn fire off. Take about a cup of green peas (fresh or frozen, if frozen, thaw) and blanch them in the hot water for about 2 minutes. Add blanched peas, add about a cup of mint leaves, 1 small red onion, 2 tbs white wine vinegar , and two cup of cold water in a blender. Blend all ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper, and adjust vinegar taste, if necessary. Voila! A healthy, nutritious, and delicious soup. You'll get sweetness from the peas and the mint works to heighten the freshness of the peas. The onion and vinegar is there to balance everything out. Add cream or sour cream if a little fat is desired.
- In salads. Here is a salad that is pretty boring without mint. It is an Orzo, Feta, Tomato, and Mint salad. Orzo, is a Mediterranean pasta shaped like rice. To prepare, bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 cup Orzo (When cooking pasta, always add pasta to salted boiling water, else it will clump and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Cook pasta till cooked. Pastas are usually cook when they begin to float, is firm to the teeth, but do not taste raw(floury). Do not overcook. Drain hot pasta into colander, run under cold water to stop cooking, then toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cut Feta cheese into small cubes, wash either cherry or teardrop tomatoes (use whole). Chop mint leaves finely. Add all ingredients to large bowl. Make a vinaigrette with 2 parts oil to 1 part white wine vinegar, 1-2 tbs maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add vinaigrette to ingredients in bowl and gently toss to incorporate. That's it! Bon Appetite.
- As a substitute for other herbs. Mint is an excellent substitute in recipes that may call for cilantro, in particular. But it can also be used instead of parsley or any herb whose addition primarily is for freshness.
So hopefully you get the sense that mint is for more than tea and dessert decoration. With a little experimentation, you too can come to see the many possibilities of mint in cooking.