In like mint

When this sweet, versatile herb sprouts, you’ll know spring has sprung

Few things awaken my palate to the changing produce season, from winter to spring, as when I see the first flush of mint begin to emerge from the ground. When those bright green tufts start peeking up, usually around the Ides of March, I can practically taste the new potatoes, fava beans and pea tendrils that I also hope will start showing up soon at farmers markets and in allotments from the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm I belong to.

Mint is exceptionally versatile, enlivening vegetables and meat dishes alike. Lamb chops, for me, are simply incomplete without a minty condiment, whether jelly or chutney. And thanks to its refreshing, cooling flavor, mint is right at home in savory as well as sweet dishes, including my all-time favorite ice cream flavor – mint-chocolate chip.

In addition to its edibility, mint brightens up beverages, from iced tea to mint julep and rum-fortified mojito.

Let’s get cooking!

Mint Chutney

Makes about ¾ cup.

Serrano chiles                                   2
Fresh mint leaves                             1 cup, destemmed and packed
Cilantro                                              1 cup, packed (stems okay)
Salt                                                      1/4 teaspoon
Sugar                                                  1/4 teaspoon
Lime                                                   1, juiced
Apple cider vinegar                         1 teaspoon
Water                                                 1/4 cup

  1. While trimming off the stem of the chile, now’s a good time to ask yourself, “What is my spice level?” If you’re fond of the endorphin rush that eaters experience eating spicy foods, then just chunk the destemmed chiles into the blender. On the other end of the spice spectrum, if heat is your nemesis, then remove each and every last seed and soak the chiles in ice water for 5 minutes before blending. I’d suggest taking a lick or small bite of the chile to gauge its spice level and adjust accordingly.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately. The chutney will lose its bright green color over time, so be sure to store any leftovers in an air-tight container and refrigerate. Use within 2–3 days.
  3. If the chutney comes out spicier than you’d like, you can add more herbs, more sugar and vinegar in equal measures, or a tablespoon of yogurt or coconut flakes. This chutney goes great with grilled lamb, chicken or tofu, potatoes and peas, and flatbreads with cheese.
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