2/22/11

Medley of mint

Well I am back at it again, supporting the local garden centers. I bought some fresh herbs this weekend. I am going to(again) try and get an Herb garden going. I managed to get Basil to grow outside my patio for about 6 months. That is until they decided to paint the building which required I me to move the plant. Someone stole it soon after (guess they desperately needed to make some pesto!).

The fact that I managed to grow an herb successfully has given me new inspiration. Sunday I made a trip to Lowes and bought some Lavender (the last bunch got lanky and died on my patio), Mint (ditto the Lavender)and Thyme (you got it, met it's maker before I could enjoy the fruits of my labor). I went to Publix to purchase the Basil. They have the best deal and goodness knows, I need a good deal with all the herbs I purchase!

The mint is looking pretty perky and being the eternal optimist, (at least when it comes to herbs) I am preparing for a bumper crop!

Mint is a perennial herb.  It is pretty easy to grow given at least moderate light. Mint spreads very easily so it is best grown in a container unless you want it sprouting all over your lawn.  It sends out runners that will root and crowd out other plants so think twice before putting it directly into the ground.

Mint originated in Asia and the Mediterranean where it has been used in cooking for ages. There are many varieties of mint; Peppermint and Japanese mints that contain Menthol, Spearmint used primarily for flavoring and does not contain menthol. There are also Orange, Apple and Chocolate mints and Penny royal which can be toxic and let's not forget Cat Mint otherwise known as Catnip!

Mint is rich in Vitamin A, C, B12, thiamine, folic acid and riboflavin. Essential minerals that mint contains include: manganese, copper, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, fluoride and selenium. Sounds like a body builders refueling herb to me!

Dating back in history, mint was used to welcome people into the home, for medicinal purposes for the stomach, skin irritations, sinus conditions and other conditions. Mint can be used as a breath freshener too.  

My use for mint is of course, cooking with it.  When I first thought about what to do with mint, I was thinking it was an herb that had limited use. Researching and thinking back to how I have used mint, I realized it is actually an incredibly versatile herb with many uses. Who hasn’t enjoyed a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie? I know I have.  Chocolate and mint are a great combination. What would Christmas be without Peppermint? 

Of course, my first thoughts are about the sweet uses of mint (or mint oil anyway) but there are many more. I thought I would share some with you. These include mint with candy, cocktails, meats, vegetables, dairy and  uses may have ethnic roots in Greek, Mediterranean, Asian and Indian cuisine as well as plain old American food.

Here are some uses:

Grilled fish with Nectarine Mint Salsa
Bbq tandoori chicken with yogurt mint sauce
Mint is used in traditional Tabbouleh but I don’t really like the wheat.
A nice dip for everyone, vegetarians included
Persian yogurt mint dip
A nice after dinner drink, Mint Butterball (the politically correct name for it) http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Make-Mint-Butterball-100228381

I also have my favorite uses for mint.

Baked Salmon with Dill, Mint and Sometimes Feta take a piece of Salmon about an inch thick, put it on a foil lined baking pan and squeeze some lemon over it. I then sprinkle it with Dill and add a pinch of dried mint. I either bake it as is or might sprinkle a little Feta Cheese on top too. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes per inch.  It is great with Israeli Couscous on the side or more simply, some brown rice.

Waldorf Salad with Honey-Yogurt Dressing and Fresh Mint This is a recipe from Whole Foods. I made for my Christmas party 2009 and I really love it. Don't leave out the fennel it makes this dish extra special.
Waldorf Salad with Honey-Yogurt Dressing and Fresh Mint
Serves 4
Serve as a side dish, dessert or even breakfast.
Ingredients
1 cup whole milk yogurt, preferably Greek strained (I am sure you could try the lowfat Greek yogurt. I used 1/2 whole mike and 1/2 nonfat for my party)
3 tablespoons chopped mint, more for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored and chopped
1/2 Gala apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried Bing cherries
Method
Combine yogurt, mint and honey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until nuts begin to brown and are fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Cut apples and toss in a large bowl with lime juice to prevent browning. Add fennel, grapes, celery, dried cranberries, cherries and toasted walnuts. Toss to combine well. Drizzle with yogurt dressing and toss gently to combine and coat all ingredients with dressing.

Garnish with fresh mint before serving.
Nutrition
Per serving (About 10.5oz/294g-wt.): 400 calories (190 from fat), 21g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 12g protein, 48g total carbohydrate (7g dietary fiber, 34g sugar), 5mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium
California Ambrosia Smoothie
The original recipe is from  Smoothies by Barber, Corpening and Narlock. I have never tried the tofu version but it makes a nice Vegan choice. I have been known to throw in some Vanilla Protein Powder for some extra punch.
1 cup mango nectar
½ cup soft silken tofu ( I use skim milk or vanilla yogurt)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 ½ cups diced fresh mango, frozen
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3-5 Ice Cubes

Combine the nectar, tofu (milk or yogurt) and lime juice in the blender. Add the mango and mint. With the blender running, add the ice cubes one at a time until they are incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. Serves 2.

I am getting hungry just thinking about all the uses for mint. I can hardly wait for the bumper crop! Hope you try some of these. Enjoy!


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