by Kate Heyhoe
I have this habit of buying too many fresh foods, more than I can use, because they look so, well, fresh. Perfect produce and leafy herbs are especially near and dear to my heart.
So here I sit with a bunch of green things in my kitchen. I've just returned from a shopping spree at my favorite (my only) local Asian market. My shopping bags bulge with bottled goods, like mirin, coconut milk, and black bean paste; enormous heads of garlic; a small hand of ginger; and a few Chinese bowls I just couldn't resist. I restrained myself from whisking up the bags of plump soy bean sprouts, round Indian eggplants, and other fresh produce which I'll return for another day. But the bundles of lemongrass and fresh mint pleaded like lost puppies to come home with me. How could I resist? Tossing in a tightly packed head of broccoli, some napa cabbage, a bunch of cilantro, and a handful of absolutely pristine green beans (skinny and crisp), I ended up with plenty of food for the week.
Mint is one of those herbs that Asians and Middle Easterners understand fully. Southeast Asians don't even think twice about what to do with a half dozen stalks of lemongrass. But for most Westerners, these aromatic essences can be a bit more challenging.
Take mint for instance. A cursory search of the Internet yields a vast number of mint recipes, but most of them are for mint jelly and mint juleps, neither of which interest me. So I cruised through my personal cookbook library for minty ideas. Keep in mind that the bunch of mint I bought is slightly larger than Tamale, our small cat. A little bit of fresh mint goes a long way, so I'm looking for recipes that really use mint substantially, not just as a garnish.
First stop: the herb gardening cookbooks. More mint jelly and juleps. Pass.
Next, I plucked several Indian cookbooks off the shelves. Now, I was finally getting somewhere.
After scanning the indexes and flipping through the recipes, I've cobbled together, from several recipes, a quick Indian stir-fry to be served with a mint chutney. The chutney is fresh and light, spiked with cilantro, which I also brought home, and can be made a day in advance of serving. So into the blender went the mint, the cilantro and the rest of the chutney ingredients, and voila! Masala Chicken Stir-Fry with Quick Mint Chutney is destined for tomorrow night's dinner.
Despite the fact that the minty raita recipe calls for a full cup of loosely packed mint, I still have about that same amount of mint left. So, back to the bookshelves. Thailand and Vietnam strike my fancy, but I'm thinking I'll want to explore them primarily for lemongrass recipes.
Finally, I decide to search my favorite website, Global Gourmet. A few juleps and minty cocktail recipes did come up. But the vast majority of recipes are ones you can really sink your teeth into. Remember those luscious fresh green beans I carted back from the Asian market? Tonight they're getting a passport to the American Deep South, in a Williams Sonoma recipe for Minted Snap Green Beans.
With that, I'm all out of mint. Next month, I'll show you what I did with the lemongrass.
Kate's Global Kitchen for May 2003:
5/02/03 Spicing Up Cinco de Mayo
5/09/03 For Mom, a Bouquet of Vanilla
5/16/03 An Army Moves on Its Stomach
5/23/03 Burger Building—for Fun or Profit
5/30/03 Mint, Mint, and More Mint
Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created May 2003
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