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Fresh mint adds a cooling touch to chicken, pesto and chutney recipes for the hot summer | Where NOLA Eats

Fresh mint adds a cooling touch to chicken, pesto and chutney recipes for the hot summer | Where NOLA Eats

If you’ve ever grown mint, you know it can be invasive. However, you also know how cooling it can be in drinks, cocktails, water, sauces, salads and other dishes.

Many mint plants met their demise in my yard as I tried to find a place where it wanted to grow. Finally, it was happy in a large planter that also held a small native tree, in shade by the back door. Now, the tree is on its last legs, but the mint has thrived for several years.

I had plenty to make all the recipes below. My favorite usage of mint continues to be goi ga, the Vietnamese cabbage, mint and chicken salad that is so simple to make.

I made it with cabbage pre-shredded for cole slaw, and pre-shredded carrots, both of which work beautifully. The hardest part was shelling peanuts for the garnish.

Actually, I like to add lots more peanuts. I urge you to try this salad if you’ve never made goi ga. It may become your favorite, too.

Countries like Vietnam and Thailand and India, with sweltering climates like ours, have lots of uses for mint. This time around, I made one of my favorite things from Indian restaurants, a cilantro mint chutney I found on feastingathome.com.

This is such a versatile recipe. The yogurt can be used or not. You can add peanuts or unsweetened coconut to make it thicker. To make it more like a traditional-style restaurant chutney, leave out the yogurt and add ¼ to ½ cup chopped onion.

And of course you can use it with any Indian dish, or kabobs, rice, naan, samosas, whatever. Or, as I did, just dig in with pita chips or crackers and have it as a dip.

The third mint dish I tried for the first time was a pistachio mint pesto, built on the same principle as the familiar basil-pinenut-parmesan classic. Again, I was shelling nuts. The recipe from Bon Appetit says not to be alarmed when it turns a forest green color. I made this because Husband was grilling tritip, and we were both pleased with the taste and visual contrast the pesto provided. This would also be very good on pasta or in any other application where you might use traditional pesto.

As I’ve written before, mint can be substituted for basil, and vice versa. Stay cool, my friends!

Pistachio Mint Pesto

Adapted from Bon Appetit because I couldn’t find raw pistachios. Instead, I used roasted salted ones and cut back on the salt. Use on any grilled meat or roasted vegetables. Makes about ¾ cup.

2/3 cup raw pistachios (or plain roasted, salted pistachios)

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon if using salted nuts)

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups (packed) mint leaves, plus more small leaves for serving

½ ounce finely grated Parmesan (about ½ cup)

½ lemon

1. If using raw pistachios, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 5-8 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop 1 tablespoon nuts for serving.

2. In a blender or food processor, blend oil, salt and all but 1 tablespoon chopped nuts until nuts are finely ground. Add 2 cups mint and blend until a coarse puree forms; season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in Parmesan.

4. Just before serving, squeeze juice from lemon into pesto and stir well. Scatter mint leaves and reserved nuts over.

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Cilantro Mint Chutney

This versatile recipe is from feastingathome.com. To make it vegan, substitute coconut yogurt or soy yogurt, or use silken tofu, adding a tablespoon olive oil and more salt and lemon. Serve with rice or any Indian dish or use as a dip or with roasted vegetables. Makes 1½ cups.

½ cup yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 bunch cilantro, small tender stems OK

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1 cup (packed) mint leaves

1 medium jalapeno, sliced

2 teaspoons sliced ginger

1 garlic clove

¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon sugar (or honey or another sweetener alternative)

Optional: 1 tablespoon water or just enough to get blender going if not using food processor

1. Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until relatively smooth.

2. Taste and adjust salt and lemon if needed.

3. Refrigerate until serving. Chutney keeps about four days in the fridge.

VARIATIONS: Leave out yogurt to make it less creamy. For a more traditional restaurant type chutney, omit yogurt and add ¼-½ cup chopped onion.

To make chutney thicker, add peanuts or unsweetened coconut.

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Vietnamese Mint and Cabbage Chicken Salad (Goi Ga) 

I’ve published this recipe before and have played with it for years. It keeps pretty well in the fridge. I add extra peanuts. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound cooked shredded or chopped chicken

14-ounce bag shredded cabbage, about 6 cups

1 cup shredded carrots

¾ cup roughly chopped mint (or cilantro and/or basil)

2 tablespoons fish sauce

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from 2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

Several dashes hot sauce

Dry roasted peanuts for garnish

1. Combine chicken, cabbage, carrots and herbs in a large bowl. Toss well.

2. Dress with fish sauce and lime juice. Toss well again.

3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Careful with the salt, as the fish sauce is plenty salty itself.

4. Refrigerate until serving. Garnish with peanuts.

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