Chow Town

There’s no such thing as too much basil, mint

Funny how stars align, thoughts congeal and intuition takes over the driver’s seat.

Fresh mint and fresh basil have been on top of my mind to write about for a few days. They are becoming prolific in my garden and then I received a text from a friend asking if I would like fresh basil and fresh mint from her son’s garden because he had excess inventory.

I couldn’t say no, now could I? You can never get enough pesto in the freezer for those frigid winter days that are bound to appear in six or seven months.

Excess basil always can be utilized in the kitchen but mint presents more of a challenge. Lynn Rossetto Kasper, from the American Public Radio show, The Splendid Table, offers these ideas:

“Think Southeast Asian cuisines (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia), in which mint is used constantly and in big quantities in salads, spring rolls and as a finish (by the handful) to spicy stir-fries. Almost anywhere strong flavors dominate, such as chile and curry, you can top the dish with a handful of mint leaves.

“Also consider sweet mint sauce for vegetables. Boil together equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Once the syrup has cooled, stir in generous handfuls of mint. Let the sauce steep in the refrigerator for a day or so. Strain it and use it to top fruits and ice cream. Grated lemon rind could be cooked into the syrup.”

Another idea for using fresh mint is to replace half the basil with mint in pesto. Voila! It is a refreshing change to traditional pesto pasta.

While supplies are multiplying make pesto and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer pesto cubes to freezer bags, seal and freeze. When you want to recreate summer days toss a cube or two into soups, use as a sauce for pasta or thaw and spread on pizza and sandwiches.

Basil Mint Pesto Makes about 1 cup
1 cup fresh mint leaves 1 cup fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted 2 cloves garlic, cut in half 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper 2/3 cup olive oil 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place mint, basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in bowl of food processor. Pulse to finely chop. While the food processor is running, add oil in a steady stream. Process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Toasting the pine nuts or walnuts intensifies the flavor. To toast the nuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Roxanne Wyss is one of two individuals who make up The Electrified Cooks. She is the author of 4 cookbooks on the Babycakes treat line of cupcakes and cake pops, and her most recent book is Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. A professional home economist, she develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.