Tip of the Week: Using Herbs Part Three–It Was Mint to Be

Mint is my favorite herb, without any question! My grandmother grew mint, and the just the scent alone, is comforting to me. It is one of the few herbs that I will eat the leaf whole. It is just that good to me! A lot of people get stuck when it comes to using mint in cooking. It is one of those things that is best used raw or in the dried from because if heated, it will bruise and lose the fresh flavor. I mostly use mint in desserts, but I have also used it in savory foods.

When it comes to mint desserts, there are endless options. Fresh mint goes well with a lot of flavors. Some of my favorites are chocolate, watermelon, lime, and green tea. Chocolate and mint is such a classic combination, there isn’t much explaining to do. Using fresh mint with chocolate not only provides a different brightness, but also a much more subtle mint flavor. Extracts can be overpowering if not used correctly, and can taste like toothpaste. I like fresh mint, because no matter how much I use, it never gets to that point. Watermelon and mint is becoming a very popular pair. There are a lot of drinks and popsicles that I have seen over the years featuring the duo. I really like making an aqua fresca, but my favorite way to have watermelon and mint is in a fruit salad. By making a sweet dressing with mint, lime juice, and a little agave, summer fruit salads can be really elevated. The mint adds a cooling sensation in the middle of an otherwise sweet and one note fruit salad. When it comes to pairing mint with citrus, lime is my personal favorite. It pairs well with lemon, grapefruit, and orange, but I like the classic combination of lime and mint best. There is something about the flavor of lime that is slightly bitter, but also very tart, acidic, and bright that works well with the cooling mint. Drinks with lime juice and mint are great, but I like to get creative and use it in desserts. I have done cupcakes with lime and mint. A lime pastry cream with some fresh mint is also one of my favorites! One more combination I have become fond of within the last year or so is green tea and mint. I really like the two teas mixed together, so I figured I would create a dessert out of the combination. I have not been disappointed yet! My favorite is a matcha/peppermint cupcake I make, but I also like the combination in a shortbread cookie.

As far as savory applications go, I am not as adventurous in using mint. I use it in a classic tabouli salad and falafel. I find that I use more mint than any other herb in both of those dishes. I have also used mint in pesto. I like using mint as the only herb, but is also good in combination with basil. When combined with basil, the cooling properties of the mint work well with the sweetness in the basil. I also like to add different nuts when making a pesto with mint. Pistachios are great because they have a slight sweetness that works well with the flavor of mint. Mint also works great in a marinade or dressing. I like to go with a lemon juice and olive oil base when using mint because it’s delicate flavor can become overpowered when using stronger flavors, like vinegars.

As I mentioned earlier, mint is my favorite herb. I love how many different uses it has. It has taken me years to figure out how to use it, but now that I do more that eat it off of the stem, it is really exciting!

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