Mint Condition

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Mint is an herb that is often overlooked in cooking. Sure, we might stick a sprig in a glass of iced tea or muddle a handful for a batch of mint juleps on Derby Day, but we generally don’t integrate fresh mint in many recipes.

These days, my mint plants are robust, producing a bountiful crop of flavorful leaves, and I have been finding different ways to use them in the kitchen.

They add a burst of cool freshness and zip to food that is most welcome, especially this time of year.

A close friend just returned from France, where she took a cooking class, the lucky jeune fille.

She reported that the instructor featured mint in several recipes, one of which we replicated as an appetizer for a recent shared dinner.

The same evening, my husband, the renowned mixologist, made me a delightful citrusy cocktail with a few muddled mint leaves, and then for lunch on Sunday after a ramble around Philadelphia jewel Bartram’s Garden, I made a tuna salad featuring mint.

Finally, Monday morning’s pre-yoga breakfast was a mint-infused fruit smoothie.

Guacamole with Mint

This riff on the Mexican classic gives a summery zing to the healthy vegan dip.

Serves four as an appetizer

2 ripe avocados

1 tablespoon chopped onion

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon salt

12 mint leaves

Mash the avocado flesh with the onion, lemon juice and salt.

Rinse the mint leaves, then pat them dry. Stack about six leaves together and roll them into tiny, tight cylinders.

Slice the rolls into teeny discs and separate the strands. Next, sprinkle them into the guacamole.

Mix the mint into the guacamole and serve with chips, crackers, raw veggies or toast points.

Lem-Mint Cocktail

My husband Matt is an excellent mixologist. He pulled this summer refresher together on Saturday night before we headed out to dinner with friends. The vodka is a lovely addition to enliven the drink, but it would be delicious with water or seltzer as a low-octane option.

Serves one

Juice of 2 lemons

½ shot glass simple syrup (recipe follows)

1 shot vodka

4 mint leaves

Cracked ice (Matt is particular about his ice; he places cubes in a Ziploc bag and pounds them with a meat tenderizer to achieve the right size and shape. I am far less picky.)

Mix the lemon juice, vodka and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker or small pitcher.

Place three mint leaves in the bottom of a serving glass and press them with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Fill the glass part way with crushed ice, and pour the lemon mixture over it.

Garnish with the remaining mint leaf.

For simple syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan.

Heat until the sugar dissolves. Use as desired.

Tuna Salad with Lemon and Mint

Perhaps the Saturday night cocktail inspired this lunch — which I made the following afternoon.

  It was wonderful on a bed of lightly dressed baby greens served with crackers, but it would be equally delicious as a sandwich on whole wheat or rye bread with lettuce and tomato.

Serves two to three

2 cans solid white tuna, drained

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

3 mint leaves, chopped finely

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Break the tuna into small pieces in a medium-sized bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Banana Berry Mint Smoothie

Serves one generously

2 frozen bananas

8 fresh mint leaves

1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

1 teaspoon honey

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Serve immediately.