Recipe: Mint refreshes summer cooking | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Recipe: Mint refreshes summer cooking

  • TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    Perk up your summer with this minty grilled chicken salad.

At this point in the summer, my cooking needs refreshing. Good thing the mint bursts its boundaries in the herb garden.

There’s a reason most of us enjoy mint in our toothpaste and chewing gum. It cleans the palate in a way no other ingredient can.

For those without herb gardens, farmers markets and produce stands sell bundles on the cheap. Supermarkets offer little packets that last well in the fridge.

Rinse mint sprigs well under cool running water. Shake off the water and spread the sprigs on a clean towel to dry. Put the dry sprigs into a zippered plastic bag with a damp square of paper towels. Close the bag and refrigerate for up to a week.

I stock pitchers of water, laced with several sprigs of mint, for a cold refresher that I drink all day long. I tuck tiny mint leaves into green salads and fruit bowls for a surprise between bites.

Chopped mint in sour cream or plain yogurt makes a delicious dip for cut veggies. Freeze it into ice cubes to chill mojitos and gin and tonics.

Chopped and added to soft butter, the spread refreshes toast or pancakes at breakfast or steamed vegetables and grilled fish at dinner. Baked sweet potatoes topped with a sesame-mint butter prove so delicious they are often all we have for dinner after a summer’s walk.

When the garden yields an abundance of mint, I make a variety of condiments to have on hand to perk up my cooking all week long. A hoisin-mint marinade transforms fast-cooking pork tenderloin, and can also be used on chicken pieces. Leftover marinade can enliven grain salads and sandwiches.

If you make no other homemade salad dressing this summer, try one made with avocado and mint. Refreshing, creamy and tangy, the mixture tastes great on hearty green salads — even kale — as well as tomato slices and watermelon chunks. Or use it as a veggie dip.

I also dollop it on grilled fish and sliced eggplant. Try it instead of mayonnaise for a fantastic chicken or egg salad.

If nothing else, add some mint to a pitcher of sun tea. Then sit on the deck and thank your lucky stars for such a refreshing way to cool off.

GRILLED MINTY CHICKEN SALAD

By JeanMarie Brownson

  • 6 cups (8 ounces) hearty salad greens such as shredded kale, Brussels sprouts or green and red cabbage
  • 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds, pepitas, chopped almonds or pecans
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons EACH thinly sliced mint leaves, cilantro leaves and chives
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup Creamy Avocado-Mint Dressing, recipe follows
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups diced boneless chicken, warmed
  • 1 small avocado, halved, pitted, diced

Mix salad greens, bell pepper, cranberries, sunflower seeds and herbs in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Add chicken and avocado. Toss again. Serves 2 as entree.

Nutrition information unavailable.

CREAMY AVOCADO-MINT DRESSING

By JeanMarie Brownson

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 small ripe avocado, halved, pitted
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed small mint leaves

Combine oil, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper in blender; process until smooth. Add water and avocado; puree until smooth. Add mint. Pulse to finely chop mint. Cover and refrigerate. Makes about 1 cup.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (salad and dressing): 764 calories, 42 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 129 mg cholesterol, 48 g carbohydrate, 32 g sugar, 52 g protein, 534 mg sodium, 10 g fiber.

GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH HOISIN-MINT SAUCE

By JeanMarie Brownson

  • 1/2 cup hoisin-mint marinade, recipe follows, divided
  • 1-1/2 pounds pork tenderloin (or boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts OR 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
  • 1 very large white onion, peeled, cut into 4 to 5 thick slices
  • Thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

Divide hoisin-mint mixture in half; set aside half of the mixture to use later as a sauce.

>> Trim and butterfly pork: Cut away silver skin, then cut tenderloin in half lengthwise, making an incision about 1 inch deep. Open the tenderloin like a book. Make 2 more lengthwise incisions 1/2 inch deep on either side of the first cut. Spread tenderloin open further. Cover with plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound tenderloin into a uniform 3/4-inch thickness.

Place tenderloin on baking sheet; spread with 1/2 the marinade on both sides. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, or refrigerate loosely covered several hours.

Prepare a charcoal grill; let coals burn until covered in ash. Or heat a gas grill to medium.

Grill pork and onions directly over heat source, covered, 7 minutes. Turn and grill until pork is nearly firm when pressed and onions are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, then slice thinly.

Drizzle meat with remaining hoisin-mint sauce and sprinkle with mint. Serve with onions. Serves 3 to 4.

>> Note: If you chose not to butterfly the pork, marinate it whole in the refrigerator for several hours. Grill on cool side of grill 15 to 20 minutes, to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Nutrition information unavailable.

HOISIN-MINT MARINADE

By JeanMarie Brownson

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup EACH unsweetened rice vinegar and tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, about 6 large sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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