Toothpaste. Doublemint gum. Peppermint Patty. Starlight mints. Listerine.
If those are your only meet-ups with mint, I feel sorry for you.
Maybe you've flirted with that mint leaf garnish on your julep or iced tea.
Then like thousands of mothers before me have said, "You don't know what you're missing".
Spearmint "Kentucky Colonel" The Garden Buzz
Last week before vacation, my daughter and I cooked up a little minty-fresh madness all in one meal. Every dish contained mint from Mama's little mint patch, yet each one had it's own subtle sweet and bright green tone and never even came close to mint overkill. There was definitley none of that frosty-hot flavor found in candies and dental concoctions.
- Marinated rosemary lamb kebabs with mint pesto
- Fattoush salad featuring mint and sumac
- Mojito granita
My daughter might discuss the lamb and the dessert on her new food blog, Kitchen Oddity, although she's in a gourmet popsicle phase right now. But for me I'm all about the Fattoush. I mean all over it, like third helpings and already thinking about the leftovers that haunt me until the last soggy pita crumbs are gone.
It never fails that I forget to photograph the salad, such is this dish's power over me.
I found fattoush in Kansas. You may know the state as the land of Dorothy, wheat fields and aircraft factories. For me, it's the Lebanese food. Due to some serendipitous stroke of luck, a large contingent of these fabulous food lovers settled in Kansas back at the turn of the century. At any given time there are at least a dozen Mediterranean restaurants serving all manner of mouth-watering dishes. And that's just in Wichita.
Fattoush is deceptively simple, in spite of the long list of ingredients. It's open to improvisation. Just don't leave out the mint, and please, please consider the sumac* (No, it's not the posionous plant that causes rashes). Otherwise it's a good salad, but with the mint and sumac, it's easily two or three ticks above great.
Let's break it down into three parts. Two of which, the dressing and pita toasts, you could make ahead, up to maybe three days.
1/4 C. Fresh lemon juice
1/2 C. Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 t. Salt and 1t. black pepper
Simply whisk these ingredients until well-blended. Store in a sealed jar up to three days in fridge.
The Toasted Pita:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split pita bread (I make a lot) and then cut or tear into pieces about 2-3 inches, although it doesn't matter once you crumble them. Brush with olive oil (and add za'atar* if you want extra chips for snacking) and toast on a baking sheet for 3-4 minutes until golden.
Set aside until tossing the salad. Store up to three days in aritight container.
1-2 Heads of romaine lettuce, torn
1/2 Head iceberg lettuce, torn, if you want.
1 Cucumber, diced, peeled if you insist
4 Tomatoes, sliced and diced, or 1 Package cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Handful of shredded purple cabbage (optional, but colorful)
Handful of grated carrots (optional, but colorful)
1/3 C. Crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons ground sumac
When ready to serve, combine all the salad materials and add enough dressing to toss and coat. Use it all or save for another dish (it's good with basil and tomatoes alone). Crumbled the toasted pitas into the salad and toss again lightly. Serve and enjoy.
*Sumac is a spice that comes from the Rhus coriaria plant, native to the Mediterranean and Middle East. the berries are ground to make the spice. It has a tart, almost astringent but pleasant taste.
*Za'atar is the combination of ground dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. sprinkle it on your toasted pitas for a delicious snack. They are one of the most requested items here at the Hayes house.
The mint I love and use for cooking is Mentha cordifolia spicata or Spearmint "Kentucky Colonel". I love its fresh color and texture. It behaves somewhat better than some mints in the garden, so I choose to grow it in the ground in an area where I don't mind mildly aggressive behavior.
Thanks to Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden for hosting the Summer Fest cross blog culinary event. Bon Apetit!