In Defense of Mint
(Bacon Update: The bacon is ready for action, but I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it yet. Will post on that as soon as I have a chance to use it. This work thing keeps getting in the way of my culinary adventures. Hhmph. In the meantime, lets get minty…)
If I were mint, I’d be pissed. Mint may be the most underappreciated of all the herbs. It’s been reduced to a breath-freshening artificial flavor that shows up in candy canes and wintergreen bubble gum, bearing only a passing resemblance to its actual namesake. Restaurants seem to use mint mainly as a dessert garnish or in cocktails. Granted, there are summer rolls and Babbo’s Mint Love Letters, but it too often gets stuck playing Jan to attention-hungry basil’s Marcia. Why aren’t home cooks embracing the minty fresh goodness?
Poor mint. Poor unloved misunderstood mint.
Its high time someone stood up for mint, gave it the savory-food respect it deserves, made mint cool again. My mission is pretty clear. So, in tribute to all that mint has done for us, from the breath freshening to the garnishing and beyond, I’m designating this week Mint Week. (Confession: I admit I’m only doing this because I have a ton of fresh mint at home that needs to be used before it starts getting slimy. If I had a ton of Funyuns at home that needed using up, this entire week would be Funyun Week.) Maybe the Discovery Channel will replace Shark Week, with Mint Week. It's so much more civilized.
First stop? Roasted Lamb with Mint Sauce. I am firmly in the anti-jarred mint sauce camp. It’s not that difficult to chuck a handful of ingredients in a food processor or blender and anyone that tells you otherwise is probably a jarred mint-sauce salesman. I started with Mark Bittman’s Mint Pesto from “How to Cook Everything” and wound up adding more mint, easing up on the oil, and replacing the pine nuts with toasted almonds (because that’s what was in the Nut Cupboard).
The result was more saucy that pesto-y. It’s a fresh tasting, spring-y addition that really punched up the leg of lamb I had marinated in cumin and pomegranate molasses. And it was just the right amount of mint-y, mint-y in a savory food way, not in a curiously strong way. All in all, a proper salute to what mint is meant to be.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 cups loosely packed mint leaves, rinsed and dried
1 medium clove garlic
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet, until just fragrant.
2. Put the almonds, the mint, the garlic, the lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until blended.
3. With food processor or blender on, stream in the remaining oil, until a creamy sauce forms, scraping down sides of the work bowl occasionally.
4. Use immediately or freeze for up to a month.