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Mint lightens and brightens summer dishes

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Mint lightens and brightens summer dishes

The Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May, may be responsible for making mint the king of summertime drinks.

 

Along with big hats, the Derby is famous for its mint juleps, kicking off the warm weather season.

This year, mint is making its mark in the culinary scene in some new and unexpected ways. From pesto to rice salads, mint adds a summery tone to dishes that’s unmatched by other herbs, according to Chef Odette Smith Ransome, Chef Instructor of culinary arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Mint is used by chefs to add an additional level of flavor to dishes and drinks, according to Linda Marcinko, culinary academic director at The International Culinary School atThe Art Institute of St. Louis.

“I think mint is great in summer because it brightens up so many dishes. It’s so good to use in sweet items as well as savory dishes,” she says. Marcinko enjoys utilizing mint in Thai beef and noodle salad and iced tea.

Having mint on hand is easy, too, because it’s a perennial herb that will come up each year in the garden.  According to Marcinko, “it is so easy to grow and so versatile.”

The unique flavor of mint may also be used to replace calorie-heavy ingredients in traditional dishes, according to Claire Menck, chef director of culinary arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Wisconsin.

Marcinko lightens up pesto by replacing the traditional basil with mint and eliminating the cheese. Try her mint pesto, mint syrup, and rice salad to give your summer meals an extra minty kick.

Mint pesto – great with pasta or lamb chops

2 large bunches mint, trimmed of stems (just use the leaves)

1 bunch cilantro (can use some of the stems if they are not too thick)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Crushed red chilies, optional

Procedure:

1. Combine the mint leaves, cilantro, garlic and walnuts in place in the bowl of a food processor.

2. Pulse the mixture until it is roughly chopped.

3. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and vegetable stock. Process until smooth.

4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the Chile flakes.

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