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Mint has a lot to say. This persistent perennial contributes to the refreshing coolness of food and drink, often with a bittersweet edge and sometimes accompanied by notes of pepper. It’s not as subtle as some herbs, and is found in everything from cocktails to dessert, regardless of whether the context is salty or sweet. Honestly, it’s hard to overuse it. It’s also easy to grow mint in a window or garden box, which allows the leaves to always be on hand, especially in the spring.
There are different types of mint, but the default option is peppermint, which is less aggressive on the palate than mint. If you bought cut mint from the produce counter or at a farmers’ market, just make sure it smells good. As for dried mint on the spice rack, it is often used in Persian cooking, but it is a ghost of the fresh kind.
Peppermint is a great flavor to enrich warm-weather coolers. Among the top drinks on the cocktail list at Cheeca Lodge, a resort in the Florida Keys, Nugito is an alcohol-free mojito that’s so sweet and savory, you might not miss a rum. Peppermint also stars in Moroccan-style teas, usually served with sugar and hot but also delicious iced, and can add a wonderful dimension to smoothies. Refreshments are on the way.
Adapted from Cheeca Lodge, Islamorada, Fl.
Time: 10 minutes
Yield: One serving
8 mint leaves
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
5 tablespoons simple syrup (see note)
4 ounces of soft drink
Lime wedge to decorate
1. Gently crush mint leaves and put them in a cocktail cup with lemon juice and simple syrup. Fill with snow. Cover with a shaker container and shake for 10 seconds.
2. Pour into a tall glass (Collins Cup) and add blueberries. Top with club soda, garnish with pieces of green lemon and serve.
Note: To prepare a simple syrup, cook over low heat with equal amounts of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Keep refrigerated.
Moroccan iced tea with mint
Time: 20 minutes plus an hour of chilling
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon of whole-leaf Chinese green tea, preferably gunpowder
1 cup packed mint leaves plus sprigs for garnishing
Half a cup of honey or more, as desired
1. Boil the tea with 3 cups of water in the teapot using a colander, and let it steep for 10 minutes.
2. Place the mint in a small bowl. Add a cup of boiling water, and mix the mint. Leave aside to soak for 5 minutes. Honey is added. Strain it in a 6-cup jug.
3. Slowly pour the fermented tea into the jug, while holding the teapot with at least one foot above the jug – this is the basic Moroccan technique of aerating the tea. Taste the tea for sweetness and adjust the amount of honey if needed. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Pour the tea into cups filled with ice, garnish with mint and serve.
Cucumber, mint and avocado juice
Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1-2 servings
A cup of mint leaves packed
1 cup of chopped, peeled, and seeded cucumbers (about one regular cucumber)
8 ounces of pineapple juice
1 ripe but firm avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
oon teaspoon ground white pepper
a pinch of salt
1. Put mint, cucumber and pineapple juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Add avocado and mix again. Add lemon juice, pepper and salt. Mix briefly. To use a food processor instead of a blender, first turn on the machine and press the mint onto the feeding tube. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and whisk until smooth.
2. Pour into one or more cups and serve.
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