Tag Archives: mint

Sweet Pea Falafel with Minted Cucumber Salad

I have a long and interesting history with peas.  As a child, my mother tells me that I once shoved a pea up my nose.  (The other interesting childhood story about me related to the pea homophone, “pee,” is that I once slept walk into the living room thinking that it was the bathroom and proceeded to pee on the coffee table as my parents watched — slack-jawed, no doubt.)  I now realize that kids do some weird stuff and I’m glad to know that I contributed.

And as it happens in life, I have been paid back for my contributions.  My own daughter once projectile vomited peas all over me.  And when I was very pregnant with her brother, she decided to shove a tiny Polly Pocket shoe up her nose, which allowed me to learn a handy first aid trick that my Mom probably could have used.  After trying to get the shoe out by having her blow her nose (she was 4, so every time I said “Blow,” she sniffed it in even further), I called the doctor and got this gem:  when your child decides to shove something up his/her nose (which they will), close the unobstructed nostril with your finger and then cover his/her mouth with your mouth and blow hard — like you are giving them mouth to mouth resuscitation.  The shoe or pea will fly right out of there.  You are welcome in advance.

Hungry yet?

(I wonder if any writer in the history of the world has ever had to make the transition between toy or legume-obstructed nostrils and falafel.  We are clearly making history here.)

So, falafel.  I love it.  One of our favorite restaurants in town, Otto’s Pub and Brewery, had some of the best falafel I’ve ever had.  Or, at 9.2% alcohol content, maybe it was the Double D IPA that made my memories of it so warm and fuzzy.   It’s no longer on the menu, so I have to get my fix elsewhere.  I decided to try my own version for spring that would include sweet green peas, lots of garlic, creamy minted cucumbers, and a smoky sour cream sauce.

This version did not disappoint and it’s easy enough (provided you aren’t afraid of a little frying) for a weeknight meal.  So easy, in fact, that I think I’ll include it in the Cuizoo Arsenal.  It is equally good on a salad, in a pita, or wrap.  On its own, it makes a great party appetizer.  And I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet you could make these up and freeze them in quantities for a quick meal.  My leftovers are getting re-purposed for a chopped salad tonight with baby romaine, more cucumbers, avocado, and maybe some spicy toasted pumpkin seeds.

All of which will hopefully go into (and stay in) the appropriate orifices.

Sweet Pea Falafel with Minted Cucumber Salad

Serves 6

3 cups garbanzo beans (almost two cans), drained
1 cup peas (fresh or thawed frozen)
3 T parsley, chopped
3 T cilantro, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 t salt
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t cumin
1/8 t chipotle powder (or to taste)
Freshly ground pepper
1 t baking powder
5 T flour
Vegetable oil (something mild tasting)

Warm Pita Bread
Thinly sliced onion
Minted Cucumbers (3-4 peeled, seeded, and sliced cucumbers tossed with a bit of salt, pepper, chopped fresh mint, and 1-2 T sour cream)
Extra fresh mint
Smoky Sour Cream Sauce (1/2 cup of sour cream with a bit of salt and 1/4 t smoked paprika)

1.  In the bowl of a food processor, add garbanzos, peas, parsley, cilantro, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices.  Pulse until it is well combined and sticks together — but not entirely pureed like hummus.  It should still have some coarseness and texture to it.  You may have to scrape down the sides a few times to get it to combine — do not be tempted to add liquid to make it process easier.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in baking powder and flour.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to several hours.

2.  Remove falafel mixture from refrigerator and form into small patties or balls.  I think smaller patties tend to stay together the best and require less oil to fry.  Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until it is about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fry 4-6 falafel patties at a time, for about 2-3 minutes per side until they are golden brown.  Keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven while you fry the remainder of the falafel (making sure oil is back up to temperature before frying the next batch).

3.  To serve, take one half of a pita and place two falafel patties in it with several spoonfuls of the minted cucumbers, a few sliced onions, several leaves of mint, and a drizzle of the sour cream sauce.




Lima Beans with Garlic, Lemon Zest, and Herbs

I hated lima beans as a kid.  They would come out of my grandparents’ garden in buckets and the difficult task of shelling them was a shared responsibility.  However, given the skewed memories of children (and knowing what I now know about how much mothers get done), I probably had to shell about four of them before I decided it was the most impossible thing ever and I needed to go play. Something tells me that my grandmother, my aunts, and my mom probably did a few more than I.


But I think I hated the lima bean eating even more than the shelling.  This is meant to be of no disrespect to the hands that cooked them, but HOLY SHIT, did you have to cook them so long?  I’m sure that some people like their lima beans really cooked, but I could never get over the mushy, paste-like texture.


When I started to get involved in our CSA and local farmer’s markets, I decided to give lima beans another try.  I guess the nostalgia of my childhood got the best of me and I was pretty sure there was a reason the adults loved them so much.  And low and behold, I realized that I do indeed love lima beans.  And my kids do too.  But we tend to season them heavily and err on the side of about five minutes of cooking — unless we have a lot of art projects to do.

Lima Beans with Garlic, Lemon Zest, and Herbs

Serves 4-6

4 cups of lima beans, shelled
1/2 red onion, chopped (can use shallots also)
2 T butter
1-2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Zest of two lemons, finely chopped
1 T lemon juice
Chopped Chives
Chopped Mint
Salt and Pepper

1.  Melt one tablespoon of butter in a saute pan, and cook red onion until very soft and slightly caramelized.  Set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil and cook lima beans for 4-5 minutes until just tender.  (Larger beans will obviously take longer than smaller ones.)  Drain the beans and immediately plunge into an ice bath or rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.  Put beans out on paper towels and dry off a bit.

3.  Reheat red onion over medium high heat and add the additional tablespoon of butter.  Add beans and cook 1-3 minutes, just until hot.  Remove pan from heat.

4.  Stir in chopped garlic, lemon zest, mint and chives (several tablespoons of each), 1 T lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.


Grace’s Mint Jelly

As you have probably noticed, I talk a lot about my family and my grandmothers and how they helped me develop a love for cooking.  And I think there was something in the genes they gave me that just “clicked” when I got involved in the world of local food.  It all made sense to me.

I recall one day that I was processing tomatoes (obviously something I don’t love to do!) when I was standing at the sink coring and peeling.  The air outside was hot, a breeze was blowing through my kitchen windows, and the smell of parboiled tomatoes was taking over.  And I’m not saying I had a vision or saw a ghost — but I felt the presence of my deceased grandmother in a way I couldn’t explain.  Now granted, these kinds of feelings are surely tied to the deep emotions and memories that we have long since stored away.  But, all I could hear in my brain was “I’m proud of you.”  And no matter where the feelings and words came from (more likely from my brain than from the heavens), they have stuck with me.  Because Harriet would be proud of me for taking the extra time to use and preserve quality, local food in the middle of a society that does little to provide for or value those things.


And I think I can be sure of this because my other grandmother, Grace, is still in my life and I know she is proud of what I am doing and very interested in the local food movement that is occurring all over our country.  You have to imagine how foreign our society feels for people who grew up with gardens and neighborhood butchers and chickens in the backyard.

Nana Grace’s (as my kids call her) parents and ancestors were from England and Ireland, so to her a roast leg of lamb was a big treat.  And it wasn’t a roast lamb without mint jelly — and artificially colored green apple jelly with mint flavoring doesn’t count. Her mint patch was always visible in each of her houses and the taste of this transports me to her dining room table with all of my cousins (after a round of intense Barbie playing).   She made up this recipe after much experimentation and I think it is perfect.


I have been accused many times of being “evangelical” in my opinions about connecting food and family by getting back to basics with local farms and food.  And it is a true enough statement.  But you almost have to be when you see the commercial forces we are up against.  I see nothing wrong with a little grass-roots evangelism from little old me as opposed to astro-turfed, corporate marketing for big agriculture and corporate feedlots.  They are two sides of the same coin — but the corporate side has all the buying power (and is somehow more accepted in our society than someone like me trying to get you to change your purchasing habits).  So, I figure if I can sway the opinions of one or two families at a time, I am successful and both of my grandmothers will be very proud.

Mint Jelly

(Makes about four small jars)

2 full cups of mint, packed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup water
3 3/4 cups sugar (see note)
1 package powdered pectin
3/4 cup water

1.  In a good quality blender, puree mint, vinegar, 2/3 cup water, and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is completely pureed.

2.  Dissolve one package of pectin in 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Boil hard for one minute until thickened.

3.  Pour hot pectin mixture into mint mixture and blend at low speed for 1 minute.  The blender will labor as this thickens.  Pour into jars and freeze.

(Note:  I have tried to cut back on the sugar, but it is just not the same.  I don’t have a problem with it in this case because it is as special treat with roast lamb and not the kind of jelly you use in large quantities or on a daily basis.)


Pasta with Fresh Peas, Basil, and Mint

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that summer cooking is almost every bit as good as summer lovin’. Actually, I think it might be what replaces the thrill of summer lovin’ when you get old and boring.  Because seriously, heirloom tomatoes covered with olive oil and basil? Or fresh sweet corn dripping with butter and salt?  I really don’t need to say more, do I?

The beautiful, fresh, exploding with flavor summer ingredients speak for themselves so nicely that we just don’t need to do much to them.  It is the time of year when simplicity rules — save the 20 ingredient dinner recipes for winter when you are struggling to drain some flavor from the cardboard produce from Mexico.  No offense to Mexico — because I am quite sure your tomatoes are wonderful when you eat them there, but once they get to us, they suck.


And I know I say this all the time, but when you cook simply with local ingredients your kids will start to love all different kinds of vegetables.  This recipe is a case in point:  my daughter “hates” peas.  Can’t stand them.  “Pretend gags” when she eats them.  Cried when she heard I was making pasta (her favorite!) with peas in it.  How could I possibly take the thing she enjoys the most on the planet and render it unpalatable by adding peas?  Well, she tried the peas in this recipe.  Guess what?  Loved them.  It is like fresh vegetables are simply not the same things as their evil commercially-frozen twins.


Shelling the peas takes a bit of time … but the recipe is so easy that it really is the only prep involved.  And the kids love to help with this job.  Just make sure you give them a REALLY big bowl to do it in or your peas will be rolling around the floor like marbles.   And get extra peas because the kids were eating them raw out of the bowl.   Which is something I so distinctly remember doing with my grandmother — sitting on the back porch and shelling peas or lima beans from the garden and sneaking a few here and there.  Those are the vivid memories I want my kids to have of childhood summers … because some day, when they are beyond the days of camp boyfriends and summers spent working at the beach counting their collective hook-ups, they will settle down and taste some fresh summer peas and feel positively orgasmic.

Pasta with Fresh Peas, Basil, and Mint

Serves 4-6

1 lb. of whole wheat pasta
2-3 cups of freshly shelled peas
Small bunch of fresh basil, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Small bunch of fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2-1 cup of freshly grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.  When the pasta has about 30-45 seconds remaining, throw in the peas and cook.  Drain pasta and peas immediately and leave a bit of the water clinging to the pasta.  Return it to the pan and turn the heat off to the burner (the residual heat on the stove is usually enough to finish the dish).

2.  Toss the pasta and peas with olive oil and garlic and  stir to combine.  Add in the grated parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

3.  When ready to serve, toss with freshly chopped basil and mint.  Serve with additional parmesan.


Spring Pasta Salad with Aparagus, Spinach, and Mint

One of the best things about belonging to your local Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) is how quickly the season gears up — and how big your box of veggies gets.   Our first few distributions of the summer season are teasers.  Just yesterday, we got eight sprigs of basil — yet the smell was enough to make me giddy thinking of the big bags that we will get in July and August.  Our smallish bunches of asparagus have given way to much bigger bunches and I’m already over my head in spinach and rhubarb.  And the radishes, how I love the radishes — they are eaten the minute they get in the house. (Given all this talk of wonderful produce, I should give a shout out to my fantastic CSA, Village Acres Farm.)


You quickly start to plan meals based on what needs to be used, rather than what you are in the mood for.  But I find that it allows you to become much more creative in the kitchen — matching what you have with what sounds good.  This dish is a perfect example.  We were invited to a friend’s house for a party and I decided that morning to make a pasta salad.  A quick survey of the fridge revealed lots of spinach, a big bunch of asparagus, and some lovely green onions.  And the backyard mint patch was taking hold in a way that only mint knows how to do.  It definitely couldn’t be a vinegar-based dressing though — these ingredients called for lemons.


And so I flew by the seat of my pants but it came together really nicely — in about 30 minutes flat.  It would make a great picnic side dish, but also a nice vegetarian main course on a summer night.  I think the asparagus could easily be swapped out for green beans once asparagus season ends.  Serve it to me with a nice Sauvignon Blanc and I might just give you a hug.  After I eat my radish and soft butter sandwiches and my rhubarb ice cream, of course.

Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Mint

Serves 8

1 bunch of asparagus, stemmed and cut into one inch pieces
4 or 5 green onions
1 small bunch of mint
1 cup of spinach (packed), stemmed and chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3/4 cup of olive oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan
1 cup of sunflower seeds or pine nuts, toasted
1 lb. of whole wheat pasta (I used rigatoni, but penne or a similar type would be great)

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Prepare a medium bowl with an ice bath (just lots of ice and water, really).  Cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove quickly and place into the ice bath to stop the cooking.  When most of the ice has melted, remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

2.  In the same pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions.

3.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  In the food processor, combine 2 or 3 green onions (in chunks), zest of two lemons, juice of two lemons (about 1/4 cup), olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons of mint (packed), 2 teaspoons of salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Process until smooth and place dressing in a large bowl.

4.  Drain pasta well and pour into bowl with dressing.  It is good to do this while the pasta is still hot because it will soak up the dressing.  Toss well and let cool slightly.

5.  Chop remaining 2 or 3 green onions, spinach, and 2 tablespoons of mint.  Mix into pasta and dressing.  Add cooked asparagus, 1/2 cup of parmesan, and toss well.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  Chill for several hours (if possible) for flavors to mix and dressing to absorb into pasta.

7.  When ready to serve, give it a good stir and make sure there is enough dressing.  If not, add a little more olive oil.  Season more if necessary.  Mix in toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts, and garnish top with additional chopped mint, green onions, and parmesan cheese if desired.


Lamb Tikka Masala with Brown Basmati Rice

In the middle of Pennsylvania, we fight hard for spring. We endure a long winter that only reveals itself in shades of black and white (and sometimes brown) — so when I start to see the mint sprouting up in my backyard, I become a happy person.  Mint is a crazy perennial grower — plant it wherever you want nothing else to grow.  It takes over.  But I love nothing better than snipping a whole bunch for a salad, or fruit, or mint jelly, or mojitos.  Especially the mojitos.


Last night I had some lamb sausage from the wonderful Blue Rooster Farm and some sprouts of mint that caught my attention.  Add to that a few cucumbers in the fridge and all I could think about was Indian food.  I would have been ready for takeout after a long day, but I talked myself into cooking when I thought about those wonderful ingredients.  Buying your food locally puts such a different spin on cooking — it seems like so much less of a chore and so much more of a creative challenge.

Enjoy this dish with whatever type of protein you like.  Shrimp, tofu, or chicken are great … as are chick peas for a vegetarian version.  And given this takes about 50 minutes to cook (less if you aren’t using brown rice), you can have this cooked in less time than it takes to get delivery.  And you can make a mojito while you’re at it.


Lamb Tikka Masala with Brown Basmati Rice

Serves 4

1-2 cups of brown basmati rice (and water according to package directions)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 t salt
2 t coriander
1 t cumin
1 t freshly ground pepper
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t cardamom
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t chile powder (heat level according to taste)
1 t paprika
1 lb. of lamb sausage, or other protein of your choice
1 large onion, diced
Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 t tomato paste
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
1/2 cup of water
1/2 t salt
Chopped Fresh Mint

1.  Start brown rice according to package directions. (It usually takes about 45-50 minutes to cook  — when rice is done, it is important to remove the lid, fluff it, and let it steam dry for a 5-10 minutes by simply letting it sit on the stove.  This makes it less sticky.)

2.  Prepare masala spice mixture by combining chopped garlic, chopped fresh ginger, salt, coriander, cumin, pepper, dried ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, chile powder, and paprika. (Alternatively, you can use a prepared Garam Masala spice mixture if you like.)

3.  Rub lamb or protein with about 2 teaspoons of masala spice mixture and brown in a bit of olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan (you don’t need  to fully cook it, just brown it on all sides well).  Remove to a plate and wipe out skillet of any burned spices.

4.  In same pan, heat a bit more oil and saute the diced onion over medium heat with 1 teaspoon of the masala spice mixture.  Cook about five minutes until softened.

5.  Deglaze the pan with the juice of 1/2 lime.  Add tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.

6.  Add cream, yogurt, water, and salt and whisk to make sure everything is incorporated.  Slice or chop lamb/protein and add back into pan of sauce.  Simmer all until slightly thickened — about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt/pepper if necessary.  When ready to serve, stir in chopped fresh mint and serve over brown basmati rice.  A simple cucumber salad dressed with olive oil, lime juice, and mint is a great side dish.