Mint -- The Underappreciated Herb

The first things that come to mind when most people think of mint are gum, toothpaste, tea and cookies.

But Dede Wilson, a contributing editor at Bon Appetit magazine, stopped by The Early Show Thursday to open some eyes by showing how to use mint in other ways -- such as great, end-of-summer recipes, for instance.

The menu includes:

  • Grilled lamb skewers with spiced mint marinade
  • Baked Fish with Thai lemon-mint sauce
  • Coconut-mint cream cake
  • Southside (gin, mint, lime juice, soda water)

    Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that's always best when fresh. Mint can be found at farmers' markets from now until the middle of the month, along with other perfect end-of-summer produce such as peaches, tomatoes, and watermelon.

    As a cooking ingredient, mint is surprisingly subtle. Compared to its sharp flavor when fresh, cooked mint adds a depth of subtle flavor to savory dishes, including grilled meats and fish.

    Keep your mint fresh by storing it properly. Just rinse it, dry it, and wrap it up with a paper towel in a plastic bag. Kept in your fridge, it will be fresh for about a week.

    Mint has several varieties. Peppermint has a strong, menthol flavor found in candy-canes, gum, and toothpaste. Spearmint is milder, tastes much better when used in cooking, and is what Wilson cooked with on the show. The most unusual varieties of mint include pineapple mint, chocolate mint, orange mint, lemon mint, and black mint.

    Try mint for a refreshing flavor that gives a lift to mixed greens, grilled meats, herb sauces, fruit salads, yogurt-based dips, flavored syrups, and cakes.


    Grilled Lamb Skewers with Spiced Mint Marinade

    Fresh leaves give the classic lamb and mint sauce pairing a new twist. Great with jasmine rice and bok choy.

    4 to 6 servings

    1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
    3/4 cup orange juice
    1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    1/4 cup dry Sherry
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    3 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
    1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
    2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns
    1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
    1 teaspoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
    1 1/2 pounds 1-inch cubes trimmed leg of lamb

    Combine all ingredients except lamb in medium bowl for marinade.
    Thread lamb onto metal skewers.
    Place skewers in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour marinade over.
    Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight.
    Transfer lamb skewers to baking sheet.
    Pour marinade into small saucepan.
    Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat).
    Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.
    Grill to desired doneness, turning, about 8 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to platter.
    Boil marinade for 5 minutes.
    Strain, then spoon over lamb and serve.

    Baked Fish with Thai Lemon- Mint Sauce

    A delicious balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy.

    6 servings

    1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice, divided
    1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mint leaves, divided
    1/2 cup sugar
    5 teaspoons fish sauce
    3 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided
    1 teaspoon hot chili paste
    3 tablespoons corn oil
    2/3 cup finely chopped lemongrass (bottom 3 inches of about 6 stalks)
    1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
    6 banana leaves, each leaf cut into 10-inch-wide, 20-inch-long piece*or six 10-inch-wide, 20-inch-long pieces of parchment paper
    6 6-ounce halibut fillets (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
    6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided

    Stir 1 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup mint, sugar, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon lemon peel, and chili paste in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Set Thai lemon-mint sauce aside.
    Mix remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 cup mint, and 2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Set mint topping aside.
    Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.
    Add lemongrass and shallots and sauté until shallots are slightly softened and golden, about 6 minutes. Cool.
    Place 1 banana leaf or parchment sheet on work surface.
    Place 2 tablespoons cooled shallot-lemongrass mixture in center of banana leaf.
    Place 1 fish fillet on lemongrass mixture on banana leaf.
    Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.
    Top with 1 tablespoon butter; spoon 2 tablespoons mint topping over.
    Fold 1 short side of banana leaf over fish. Fold long sides in. Roll up to completely enclose fish.
    Repeat with remaining banana leaves, shallot-lemongrass mixture, fish, butter, and mint topping.
    Preheat oven to 450°F.
    Place fish packets on rimmed baking sheet and roast until fish is opaque in center, about 10 minutes.
    Unwrap fish and serve with Thai lemon-mint sauce.

    For more recipes, go to Page 2.