Archives for posts with tag: mint

As we begin the 90-90 season in Washington (90 degrees, 90 percent humidity), it’s an appropriate time to introduce a refreshing drink from the Middle East.

When I visited Sam in UAE, we toured an ancient neighborhood of Dubai. After several hours we were hot and sweaty and parched. He suggested a local drink, mint lemonade, as a sure pick-me-up. I wasn’t so sure, but readily agreed. Getting out of the sun was my priority.

We sat silently in the late afternoon shade while the waitress slowly made her rounds and eventually produced our drinks. The mint lemonades in tall icy-cold glasses were curiously green. Herbaceously green.

Mint Lemonade

Mint Lemonade

I took a sip. Mmm. It was so refreshing. The mint, the lemon, the ice all combined to create a drink that washed away the heat. After a few sips, we were alive again, talking, enthusiastic about our evening plans.

Since we have an abundance of mint (ie, the worst winter in half a century didn’t make a dent in it), I decided to figure out why this drink was so restorative.

A quick Google search brought these qualities to the fore:

Mint: astringent, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, decongestant, expectorant, antiviral.

Lemon: antibacterial, antiviral, immune-boosting, digestive aid, liver cleanser.

I decided to give a home version of mint lemonade a try. I chose a warm Sunday when Chris and Jeff were visiting, after a walking tour of the super-cool Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.

A purist would make the lemonade from scratch. I took a shortcut and bought a no-bad-stuff lemonade, Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade, which is made of filtered water, organic sugar and lemon juice/pulp. I harvested a bunch of mint, plucked the leaves and chucked the rest. Here’s the basic recipe:

Mint Lemonade

Pack a blender container with a handful or two of mint leaves. Add enough lemonade to cover. Whirl for a minute or two until the mint is pulverized. (This is no muddled julep!). Spoon a teaspoon or two of the mint pulp into the bottom of a tall glass, add ice, fill with lemonade. Top with a twist of lemon. Serve with a straw, which you use to stir and sip.

Ratio is the tricky part. CRR likes less mint puree; I like more. It’s a personal thing. You’ll have to find your bliss.

The four of us sat on the patio, slowly sipped and felt the antibodies (see above) take effect. Jeffrey declared himself relaxed. You had to be there to believe it.

If you troll Mideast foodie websites, some make the lemonade from scratch, others add a teaspoon of orange blossom water (which has a heavenly smell) or perhaps top it off with sparkling soda. Others whirl it into a frozen drink, and the racy ones suggest a splash of rum or vodka.

After experimenting for several weeks, I think I’ll freeze some mint puree in ice cube trays. Then I’ll plop a mint cube into a glass of lemonade at the end of the languid summer nights to come. And dream of Arabian nights.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

 

Confession: I have never been a fan of mint. Never liked it with chocolate, or in a julep, or … is there anything else? And its promiscuous growing habits, ugh. I made the rookie mistake of planting mint in the ground, where it threatened to take over the entire garden. So I moved it into planters, where its minty roots would sneak through the drainage holes and reappear – surprise! – as evil volunteers around the pots.

Finally, after many years, it occurred to me to put the mint into a container and set the container on a stone wall. Ha! Mint tamed.

Once I established my dominance, it became easier to admire mint. It resurrects early in the gardening season with other hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and chives. I love these fresh herbs and greedily scatter them in my spring cooking whilst everything else in the garden is just a promise of goodness to come.

Mint

Then I experienced a mint epiphany: linguine with cremini mushrooms, lemon and mint. At Big Bear Café in Washington, chef Clementina Russo rocks this pasta. She calls it “Sicily in a bowl.” I agree. (see my review at Flavor magazine)

I don’t have Clementina’s recipe, but I am so enamored of this pasta that I’ve tried to replicate it. Enjoy mint in a new twist. And tell me if you have a savory mint dish; it might help reinforce my changing opinion of it.

Pasta with mushrooms, lemon & mint

4 ounce carton of mushrooms, preferably creminis, sliced or chopped

½ Tablespoon each of butter and olive oil

1 Tablespoon chopped mint

2 cloves garlic, minced

Zest and juice of one lemon

½ c vegetable or chicken broth

One 8 oz package Trader Joe’s lemon pepper pappardelle (this pasta enhances the other flavors of the dish but of course you can use regular linguini or other pasta)

Salt & pepper to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat water for the pasta to the boiling point. When the mushrooms are tender, immerse the pasta in the boiling water and cook to al dente. Add the garlic, mint, lemon zest and juice to the mushrooms in the pan. Then add the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta and add it to the mushroom mixture in the sauté pan. Briefly cook to blend the flavors. Divide among pasta bowls, top with a sprig of mint, and serve with shredded parmesan cheese. With salad, a crusty baguette and a crisp sauvignon blanc, this is a memorable and minty meal. Serves 3-4.