Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples -- or your seasonal produce -- every which way.
Today: Mint will take over your garden, windowsill, or market basket if you let it. Make the expansive herb your friend with these five summer recipes.
They warned you about mint. They said it would take over your garden, your fire escape, your kitchen counter. Hospitable is one word for it; invasive another. Still, you invited it into your rotation. You fantasized about never having to run out for a little plastic container of herbs at the grocery store that you would inevitably leave to wilt in your fridge. You had dreams of juleps and mojitos, refreshing summer salads, inspiring ice creams.
So maybe, like the humble mint plant itself, you went overboard and bought (or grew) too much. Never fear: These five recipes will make quick work of your bunches of minty goodness. Divide them up and conquer.
Roberta's Parsley Cake
Mint is sneaky -- it doesn't always make itself known, even when you're cooking or baking with it by the bunchful. That's not the case with this green, herb-packed cake: It calls for two whole bunches of the stuff, plus five bunches of parsley. No matter -- mint can hold its own against the parsley, and if you're looking to turn a few bushels into a crowd-pleasing dessert from one of Brooklyn's most beloved restaurants, look no further. This is a great way to make use of your mint stash while it's at its freshest. Save a few sprigs for the rest of your meals, and enjoy this garden-inspired cake all week long.
Lamb Biftekia with Anchovy, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Mint
Skip your usual burger game (at least for one night) and make these Greek-inspired ground lamb kebabs instead. Fresh mint mingles well with salty capers, anchovies, and sun-dried tomatoes in a flavor-packed dipping suace. For the best results, use a mortar and pestle. If you're in a rush, the mixture can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a day or so.
Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce
Why did no one invite mint to breakfast? Or breakfast for dinner? We're sorry, that was our mistake. This egg dish, a minty riff on Israeli shakshuka, will hopefully make up for our indiscretion. It's the perfect saucy, warming dish to toss some herbs into at the last moment, with a finishing touch of mint providing a perfect note of fresh flavor. This dish is also a great showcase for the haul of gorgeous summer tomatoes you just brought home, if you're in the mood to crush them yourself.
Sautéed Zucchini with Mint, Basil, and Walnuts
This is the perfect dish to help clear your garden, diminish your CSA haul, or put a dent in local markets' bountiful, seasonal ingredients. Did we mention it's also delicious? The secret salt isn't added until you're almost finished cooking, which means that the zucchini will get so crisp, you won't even recognize it. This recipe is relatively light on the mint, requiring only a few choice leaves, so it's good to save for when supplies are low.
Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese, Ricotta, and Mint Filling
Mint will sneak up on you in this dish, where it's chopped into an herby filling made with goat cheese and ricotta and sandwiched between homemade pasta. This is a perfect make-ahead meal that will hit the spot whenever you want the comfort of pasta with a hint of summer's bounty. This dish might be a labor of love, but you'll be craving the results immediately after you polish off a plate.
Mint Julep and MojitosMint takes the stage in a classic Southern cocktail (bonus points if you drink it out of the appropriate vessel). If you feel like taking your cocktail menu a little further south and a touch more international, the mojito is Cuba's gift to mint (or mint's gift to Cuba, depending on your perspective). But there's no need to choose between your mint-based cocktails -- this is the endless herb we're talking about! Aren't you glad you have all those bunches of it now?
What are your favorite ways to use mint? Let us know in the comments!
Zucchini photo by Eric Moran, all others by James Ransom