Mint, a staple in the catalogue of Mediterranean herbs, brings something unique to the table, and is suitable in both sweet and savory dishes.
While it is most commonly turns up as mint jelly, paired with lamb for classic Easter dinners, that combination does not come close to addressing the depth of flavor mint can add to a dish.
From mint juleps at the Kentucky derby – the sweetness is a perfect partner with smoky Kentucky bourbon – to classic tabbouleh salad, mint is the surprising flavor that is transformative and lovely.
Mint is a natural stimulant – an afternoon cup of mint tea can revive a wilted spirit – and it has been linked to preventing a wide range of ailments including allergies and digestive problems.
Couscous Salad with Mint
This play on risotto is tart and savory with a hint of sweetness. It would pair well with the smokiness of grilled meat.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 16-ounce box Israeli couscous
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 lemons, juiced
- Zest of one lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup dried apricots, cut into a small dice
- ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
In a medium saucepan, heat three tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add the couscous and cook until the pasta beads are toasted and lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and the juice of one lemon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the couscous is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the couscous, and toss it in a large bowl with the quarter-cup olive oil, the remaining lemon juice and zest of one lemon as well as salt and pepper.
When couscous is cool, add the fresh herbs, dried apricots and almonds, tossing to combine.
Cheesy Fettuccine with Lemon and Mint
This light pasta is perfect for a busy weeknight meal, and it blends savory, sour, sweet and heat for a deliciously different take on pasta night. It again celebrates the delicious combination of lemon and mint.
- 1 pound dried fettuccine
- Coarse salt to season the pasta water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus more to finish
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves, cut into a thin chiffonade
Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid for the sauce.
Transfer pasta to a large bowl and toss with butter until melted. Add the pasta water, cheese, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, mint and red red-pepper flakes, tossing until pasta is well coated and sauce is creamy.
Garnish with additional cheese.
Mediterranean-style Mint Lemonade
This beverage – from a recipe adapted from The Mediterranean Dish – is traditionally served at Egyptian ahwas (small coffee shops) and is a classic summer refreshment. The original called for using whole lemons, but this version uses just the zest and juice to prevent the bitter pith from dominating the drink.
- 2 cups crushed ice
- 4 cups water
- Juice of 3 large lemons
- Zest of two lemons
- 1 bunch fresh mint leaves, about 40 leaves, stems removed, several reserved for garnish
- 1 cup sugar
Combine all the ingredients into a blender and blend on high speed until ice is crushed and ingredients are well combined.
Strain the lemonade through a mesh strainer and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Serve over ice.
Mint JellyIf you can’t imagine serving lamb without the ubiquitous mint jelly, this recipe takes advantage of fresh mint, so it brings with it a bold, fresh flavor.
- 1 ½ cups packed fresh mint leaves and stems
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 ¼ cups boiling water
- 1 drop green food coloring
- 3 ½ cups white sugar
- 3 ounces liquid pectin
Rinse mint leaves and place them in a large saucepan. Crush them using a muddler or the bottom or a glass. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil.
Remove from heat and cover, allowing the mint to infuse the water for 10 minutes.
Strain the mint from the water and measure out 1 2/3 cups.
Place the mint water into a saucepan and add lemon juice and food coloring.
Mix in the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. When it reaches a full rolling boil, stir in the pectin and boil for a full minute, stirring constantly.
Skim off any foam from the top using a metal spoon and transfer the mixture to prepared jars.
Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.