Mint Love

Mint is one of the easiest, most pleasurable herbs to grow. It’s perfect for patio gardens as it is both ornamental and functional. It’s also a perennial in most climates. Because mint is very hardy and invasive, it should only be grown in containers. Learn more about growing mint here. Mint comes in several flavors such as apple, orange and ginger. One my favorites is chocolate mint both for its flavor and appearance. Here, chocolate mint trails beside standard mint in my mint pot.

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I love to place mint stems in small vases on windowsills and in bathrooms. Paired with lavender and rosemary sprigs, they make a lovely, aromatic display. In my kitchen, herb bouquets stand ready for culinary use.

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As a little girl, my mother showed my how easy it is to root mint. Simply place a small vase of mint sprigs in a sunny window. In a week or two, your sprigs will have roots. I was always so amazed at this. I still am! If you have little ones about, they will be fascinated with the process.

IMG_0979.JPGOnce your sprigs have a nice set of roots, simply pot them, give them some water and voila! A new mint plant. I like to repurpose pots and containers by planting mint sprigs and giving them as gifts.

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I use rooted sprigs to replenish my own mint pot. As the summer wanes and my annual pots start to look a bit bedraggled, I often perk them up with mint like this patio container.

IMG_0978.JPGAugust is not the time most of us are thinking of starting new plants, but mint can be started any time. It will thrive outdoors until the first hard frost, and can be grown inside as well. Learn more about cultivating mint indoors here. There are many uses for mint. Once you have your own mint pot, look for ways to enjoy it. Some of my favorite recipes are Yogurt Mint Sauce, Strawberry, Mint and Black Pepper Jam and The Tranquillo, an absolutely delicious cocktail. Of course, we can’t forget that Cuban classic, the Mojito. You can usually find mint plants at your grocery store. I get mine at Trader Joe’s. Pick one up and, like me, you will fall in love with mint!
Bon appetit!
Tess

Summer’s Perfect Salad

Here in Ohio, summer is at its peak. Tomatoes grow exceptionally well in Ohio. A visit to an Ohio farmer’s market in July will reward you with lots of tomatoes to choose from, often including heirloom varieties such as the yellow tomatoes pictured above. The flavor of fresh tomatoes is one of the best arguments for eating seasonally. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they can be canned in a water bath. So easy! Learn more about canning tomatoes here.

One of the easiest herbs to grow is basil. Basil does exceptionally well in containers, loves the sun and grows quickly throughout the summer. One large plant (like this one in my container garden) will keep you supplied with fresh basil throughout the summer. Plant an extra one or two and you’ll have basil to make pesto too! Pesto cannot be safely canned at home, but it does freeze extremely well. If you are freezing the pesto, omit the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. You can add it after you thaw the pesto. Learn how to make pesto here.

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Plant some basil and discover for yourself the taste of your own fresh picked basil. Basil plants are often available at your grocery store.

Now for the Perfect Summer Salad! We’ve all had that most traditional of Italian salads, the Caprese. Made with just four ingredients…tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic reduction…the Caprese comes into it’s own at summer’s peak when the freshest tomatoes and basil are available. You can reduce your own balsamic vinegar. Find out how here. It will take a few hours and must be watched closely to prevent it from over reducing. I find it much easier to purchase a prepared reduction.

I particularly like Gia Russa.

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Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, putting your Caprese salad together couldn’t be easier. Just follow these steps:
-Slice your tomatoes into approximately 1/2″ slices. Spread the slices out on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sweat for 30 minutes.
-While the tomatoes are sweating, pick and rinse your basil. Pinch the the leaves off the stems and set aside.
Slice a log of fresh mozzarella in 1/2″ slices.
-After 30 minutes, arrange the tomatoes on a platter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck the mozzarella slices and basil leaves in between the tomato slices. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.

And there you have it! Summer’s Perfect Salad.
Bon appetit!
Tess