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Spearmint: A Gardener’s Enemy and a Chef’s Friend

Aug 07, 2014 12:13AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

If you’ve ever grown spearmint, you know that soon the only plant growing in your garden is spearmint. This hardy herb takes over a plot of ground, and once it does, it’s nearly impossible to kill. Luckily, its invasiveness is forgivable for its versatility in cooking, bringing freshness equally well to sweet or savory dishes. Spearmint can play a supporting role at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. It blends well with other herbs but doesn’t upstage the main ingredients. Also heralded for its medicinal qualities, mint is known to settle upset tummies. Here are a few recipes to try this summer; they’ll help keep the spearmint invasion at bay. Enjoy!

Breakfast

Raspberry Cacao Mint Smoothie: In a blender, combine 1 cup milk, 1 small banana, 1 cup frozen raspberries, 1 tablespoon finely chopped spearmint, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder, and ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt. Blend well and pour into glasses. Garnish with more raspberries, mint leaves, and dark chocolate shavings, if desired.

Honey Mint Yogurt with Peaches: For breakfast for two, combine two cups plain yogurt, ¼ cup finely chopped spearmint, 1 teaspoon honey, and a few dashes of cinnamon. Blend well and divide equally between two bowls. Top with sliced peaches, a sprinkle of flaxseeds, toasted coconut, and slivered almonds. Drizzle with more honey and serve.

Lunch

Mint Iced Tea: Place approximately 10 twigs of spearmint, leaves intact, into a teapot and cover with almost-boiling water. Allow to steep until water reaches room temperature. Pour over ice and sweeten with honey. If desired, serve with lime wedges and a sprig of mint.

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad: Cube 1 cup watermelon and mix with ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese. Mix in 2 cups arugula and ¼ cup fresh mint leaves. Toss with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Top with chopped pistachios and another drizzle of balsamic.

Dinner

Mojito: With a mortar and pestle, grind a handful of mint leaves and add to a glass. Squeeze the juice from two or three lime wedges on top, and then add the limes to the glass as well. Add ice, then fill half the glass with limeade and the rest with seltzer. Top with one ounce of dark rum and garnish with grated lime zest and a mint sprig.

Pea Risotto with Mint Pesto: On the stovetop, simmer 4 cups chicken stock. In another pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter. When hot, sauté 1 tablespoon minced garlic and one finely chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper, and add ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint. Add a cup and a half of Arborio rice, stir, and sauté for a few minutes until rice begins to barely brown. Then add ½ cup white wine. Cook until absorbed, and then begin to slowly pour in the hot stock, stopping to stir until absorbed. Continue adding the stock until the risotto is creamy; add hot water if necessary. When desired texture is achieved, mix in a cup and a half of fresh peas and 1 tablespoon butter. Finally, stir in another ¼ cup chopped mint and chopped parsley. Top with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Mint Chimichurri Sauce: Cube 1 pound of lamb into one-inch pieces. Cube an eggplant, a large zucchini, and a large onion into pieces of equal size. Skewer the lamb and vegetables onto metal or wooden skewers, alternating between meat and vegetables. Brush with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 8 to 10 minutes, until meat is still pink inside but browned on the outside. Meanwhile, blend 1 cup mint leaves, 1 cup parsley, ½ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. When the meat and vegetables are grilled, serve with chimichurri sauce spooned on top.

Dessert

Blueberry Galette with Mint Whipped Cream: Thaw a frozen piecrust on a baking pan. In a bowl, mix 2 cups blueberries, ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pile this filling onto the center of the piecrust and then fold the edges of the crust into the center onto the edge of the filling, overlapping and folding the crust as needed. Beat an egg and brush the crust. Sprinkle with more brown sugar and bake at 400º for about 25 minutes. Crust should be golden brown. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup chopped mint leaves and ¼ cup each white sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook until well dissolved, just before it reaches a boil. Remove from heat and allow to sit for up to an hour. Strain, squeezing the mint to extract the juice. Add to 2 cups whipping cream and beat with an electric mixer until peaks form. Serve galette hot or cold, topped with chilled mint whipped cream and a sprig of mint.

How do you use the abundance of spearmint in your garden?

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