Friday, May 16, 2008

Recipe: Mint Vinaigrette

I had a bit of a revelation last week: Mint is an herb.

Did you know that? You probably did. You're probably thinking that I'm crazy, that I might as well jump up and down proclaiming, "The sky is blue! The sky is blue! Seriously, have you guys seen it? The SKY is BLUE!!!!" Which might be a valid comment after 32802384 days of rain, but at any other time... just a bit obvious.

So I guess I should clarify my revelation: mint is an herb that can be used without sugar.

I've always thought of mint as a dessert flavoring. Mint chocolate chip ice cream, Andes mints, Thin Mint cookies -- all are minty, all are deeeelicious, and all are sweet. The only times I've bought fresh mint in the past have been when I wanted to make mojitos, which are also sweet. Toothpaste, mint gum, and Tic-tacs prove the point even farther.

Mint has long been one of my favorite flavors. I remember walking around grocery stores as a child, and my mom would direct me to the mint bunches. We'd each pull off a leaf and rub it between our thumb and forefinger, and then our hands would smell like mint for the rest of the shopping trip. And yet... until last week, I never thought of using mint in a savory dish, using it alongside or instead of basil or parsley or sage. I bought a bunch of fresh mint yesterday for just this purpose: I want to experiment, to test the versatility of this herb. (Because that's what mint is: an herb. For reals!)

Experiment #1 came in the form of a salad dressing. Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a green bean and cherry tomato salad recently that really called out to me, what with the freshness and the bright colors and all. The basic salad dressing in that recipe (olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper) seemed like a good place to start minting it up. I prepped my green beans and tomatoes as described in the recipe, except that I halved the quantities, and here's the dressing I made to go along with it.

Mint Vinaigrette
makes enough to dress 2 salads

2 tbs seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
1 small shallot
1/2 tbs fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper

Tools and Equipment:
small bowl

Pour vinegar into bowl, then slowly drizzle the olive oil in, whisking to emulsify.

Finely chop shallot and mint, then add to bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. [Note that seasoned rice wine vinegar contains salt, so you probably won't need to add much more.]

Let dressing sit for a few minutes while you prep the salad.


The results? Well, I'd say this experiment was a resounding success. The vinegar I used contains some sugar, so I didn't completely break away from the minty+sweet=tasty formula, but then again, this is a salad dressing and not a dessert... so I think that's progress. Either way, the dressing was great, the mint was subtle yet noticeable, and it really highlighted the fresh veggies in the salad. I served it with a piece of Scottish trout, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, a dill-y spice mix, and a squish of lemon juice, then broiled for 10 minutes. Together, they made my favorite kind of meal - quick, easy, and delicious!


katiez said...

Mint is also a voracious weed that will take over your entire garden/yard/property the nanosecond your back is turned...
Just so you know!
One has to drink a lot of mint julep to keep up...

Joanna said...

Katie -
I had no idea that mint is a weed! Hopefully at some point I'll have a garden of my own (other than the tiny basil plant on my fire escape) and I will have to keep that in mind. But if drinking lots of mint juleps is the answer, well, I could think of worse things...