The coolness of fresh mint
Cool off this summer with a tabbouleh salad that uses fresh mint.
Due to pesky gophers, my garden is limited to container gardening on my deck.
I have been amazed this year at the lush growth of my fresh spearmint plants growing in a water-filled plastic tub. I have grown it for many years but for some reason it really went crazy this year, so I am scrambling to find different ways to use it.
One thing was particularly handy, and that was to place the fresh sprigs on shelves in my food pantry. Kept the ants right out, even though typically I get ant invasions every spring and summer.
Many different pests seem to hate mint. I must be free from the pest category, because I love the stuff. If you do too, here are some recipes that call for fresh mint. Maybe you will find something that will help you keep cool this summer.
This makes one drink. Adjust recipe for more servings.
10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 cup ice cubes (I prefer crushed)
1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda
Small sprig of mint
1. Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a glass. Use a muddler (bartender’s pestle) to crush the mint and lime to release the mint oils and lime juice. Add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again to release the lime juice. Do not strain the mixture.
2. Fill the glass almost to the top with ice. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with club soda.
3. Stir, taste and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge and small mint sprig. Makes 1 serving.
I have seen so many different ways to spell this tasty bulgur wheat salad.
1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat (cracked wheat)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups boiling vegetable stock
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
4 tomatoes, diced
1 English cucumber (also called Armenian or hothouse), peeled and diced
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a large bowl, mix bulgur wheat and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour boiling vegetable stock over the bulgur and allow to stand for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well in a strainer.
2. Add remaining ingredients to bulgur, adjusting salt and pepper to suit your taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 10 servings.
Cucumber and mint salad
2 English cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds, then cut into thin slices. Toss the cucumbers with the salt in a colander. Let drain in the sink for at least 30 minutes, then tap the colander on the base of the sink to release any remaining water. Lay a clean dish towel flat on the counter, and then dump the cucumbers over top. Use the edges of the towel to blot the cucumbers dry.
2. Meanwhile, soak the red onions in a small bowl of ice water for at least 10 minutes, then drain in a fine mesh strainer.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the prepared cucumbers, red onions, white wine vinegar, olive oil, vegetable oil, sugar, pepper and chopped mint. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Serve cold. Makes 4 servings.
Inspired by Lebanese cuisine, this is great for using up pita bread that is a bit stale. If you plan to eat this salad at more than one sitting, cover and store the salad, minus the toasted pita and dressing, to prevent the pita and lettuce from wilting or softening.
For toasted pita:
2 whole-grain pita breads, 7-inch diameter, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of fine sea salt
For the salad:
1/2 batch fresh mint dressing (recipe follows)
8 to 10 ounces fresh romaine lettuce, chopped (about 1 medium head)
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 cup quartered and thinly sliced English cucumber
1 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped radish
1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped, optional
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
1. To toast the pita: Preheat oven to 400. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss the torn pita with 2 tablespoons olive oil until lightly coated. Sprinkle with salt and bake in preheated oven until the pieces are very golden and crispy, tossing halfway, 8 to 12 minutes. Set the baking sheet aside to cool.
2. To prepare the salad: Make the salad dressing as directed and set aside. In a large serving bowl, combine the chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, mint, optional parsley and feta, and toasted pita.
3. When ready to serve, drizzle up to 1/2 cup dressing over the salad. Gently toss until all of the ingredients are lightly coated. Serve promptly. Makes 4 servings.
Fresh mint dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup packed fresh spearmint leaves
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 twists of freshly-ground black pepper
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed.
2. Store any unused dressing covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes about 1 cup.