Tired of basil with summer vegetables? Try mint

Amid aromas of onions and shallots sautéing in butter, mint made its presence known to participants in a recent cooking class.

A key ingredient in millet tabbouleh, fresh mint made the trip from my garden to a class coordinated by ACCESS at Rogue Valley Family YMCA. Volunteering for the former organization, I was demonstrating how to make “seasonal veggies the star” at mealtimes.

We all associate August with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and green beans, featured in three recipes for the hands-on workshop. Basil is the de facto flavor that goes with any and all of these, as long as the hot, sunny days spur the plants to lush growth.

But when you’re tired of yet another pairing of tomatoes and basil, or eggplant and basil or zucchini and basil, try mint, I ventured. It’s a nice change of pace and a fairly classic flavor combination on the eastern side of the Mediterranean and North Africa.

If mint is associated with anything other than tea, for many of us, it’s lamb. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to appreciate “mint jelly’’ as an accompaniment to one of my favorite meats. But a marinade with fresh mint, garlic and lemon hits all the right notes.

A May post to this blog featured a mint pesto that’s delicious with lamb. But this recipe from Ina Garten plays up mint’s complexity with cumin, turmeric and whole coriander seeds. A bonus is the fresh mint and toasted pine nuts studding her couscous side dish.

Plan ahead for this recipe because the rub and yogurt marinade involve hours in the refrigerator, which makes all the difference. If you prefer, buy individual lamb chops rather than by the rack.

Tribune News Service photo

Moroccan Grilled Lamb Chops

6 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/3 cup julienned fresh mint leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric

1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons; reserve lemons for juice)

Kosher salt, as needed

5 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for the grill

3 racks of lamb (6 to 7 ribs each), cut into chops (see note)

1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (12 ounces)

1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Couscous With Pine Nuts and Mint (see related recipe)

Place the garlic, mint, turmeric, coriander, cumin, lemon zest and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade; process until finely ground. Add the olive oil and pulse to combine. (If you only have a blender to use, add these ingredients for rub all at once and process.)

Place the chops in 1 or 2 nonmetal dishes large enough to hold them in 1 layer. Spread garlic-herb mixture evenly on both sides.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, Sriracha and lemon juice; spread it evenly on top of lamb chops (on only 1 side). Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for 6 to 24 hours.

Prepare grill and oil cooking grate. Sprinkle lamb with some salt and grill 5 to 6 inches above coals, first with yogurt side up (marinade and all) for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn and grill for 3 to 4 minutes, until medium-rare. Transfer to clean plate, cover plate tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the couscous.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from “Cooking for Jeffrey,” by Ina Garten.


Couscous With Pine Nuts and Mint

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups couscous

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup julienned fresh mint leaves, loosely packed

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (see note)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter into the oil. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; remove from heat. Cover pot tightly and allow couscous to steam for 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and stir in the mint and pine nuts. Taste for seasonings and add about 1 teaspoon salt (depending on saltiness of stock) and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: To toast pine nuts, place them in a dry sauté pan over low heat, tossing often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until they brown slightly and become fragrant.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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