Peppermint in Recipes
Peppermint has been used for centuries to flavor soups, sauces and meat dishes. It is also commonly used in tea, cookies, and candies. The cool, refreshing scent and flavor lends itself well to many summer dishes and chilled desserts as well.
Peppermint is available fresh, dried, and as an oil for cooking. It is also used in chocolate chips and candies called for in recipes. When sold fresh, mint is normally sold in bunches. Check to make sure the leaves are firm and crisp and that there is no mold. Dried peppermint can be found in bunches or in jars. For the best flavor choose fresh mint over dried. To store fresh mint, wrap the bunch in a slightly damp paper towel and place it inside a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator. This will keep the mint fresh for about a week. Dried mint should be kept in a tightly sealed jar or bag and should be kept in a dry, cool, dark spot in order to preserve the flavor. Dried peppermint will keep its flavor quality for about a year.
For a yummy salad dressing try a citrus peppermint mixture on baby greens and arugula. The peppery flavor of the mint and the sharp flavor of the arugula combine for a unique flavor and the citrus makes it slightly tart. Mix the zest and juice of one lime (or lemon), 1 Tablespoon mint finely chopped, 1 Tablespoon of light vinegar of your choice (white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, etc.), and 1/3 cup olive oil. Whisk or shake together and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes for using to incorporate flavor.
Peppermint can also be used in any other vinegar and oil dressing in combination with other herbs for a different twist. Alternately, peppermint leaves can be added fresh to salad for an extra kick.
Many Middle Eastern dishes call for mint, and peppermint can be used in these. Both Greek and Turkish cooking uses a mint mixture for lamb kabobs. Prior to placing on skewers, place the cubed lamb in a marinade of 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup finely chopped mint, 1/4 cup basil and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the meat to marinate for at least one hour to overnight and then place on skewers and grill. Using the same recipe as the marinade you can make a mint sauce by placing the mixture in the food processor and blending. This can then be served for dipping.
Stronger flavored fish like Ahi tuna, swordfish, or shark can be marinated in a mixture of 1/4 cup fresh chopped peppermint to 1/2 cup olive oil for 30 minutes before grilling.
To perk up plain rice, add lightly chopped and bruised mint leaves to the rice just as it finishes cooking. Also try adding a handful of peppermint to the water used to steam vegetable. The oils will release in the boiling water and add a light mint flavor to squash, zucchini, or green beans.
For a refreshing twist on lemonade or iced tea, crush several peppermint leaves and add them to an ice cube tray with water. Freeze and add the cubes to the tea or juice drink and as the cubes melt the mint flavor will be infused in the drink.
For an after dinner drink, try a mint julep. Crush about 6 fresh peppermint leaves, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water in the bottom of a wide tumbler or highball glass and mix well. Add 2 ounces bourbon or cognac, and fill with crushed ice. Stir until the glass is frosted and add a sprig of mint to the top.
For a decadent dessert try a mint julep sorbet which can be made with or without the alcohol. Bring 1 cup water to a boil and add to it 2 cups loosely packed fresh peppermint leaves and 1 and 1/2 cups sugar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and then strain off liquid. Add this liquid plus 2 cups honey dew and 2 pints macerated sliced strawberries to a blender and blend until smooth (add 1/4 cup of bourbon or cognac if desired). Freeze until very slushy and then add to highball glasses and top with a sprig of mint.