Back to the Kitchen: Cooking with mint and tarragon

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BY GWEN KENNEALLY

As a child, the only seasoning I knew came from a bottle or package. As I got older I learned that garlic was actually not a type of salt and that there were fresh herbs from the ground and not made by McCormick.

As I grew in my culinary experiences I found fresh basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro, lavender and sage. To me, nothing is more exotic that tarragon. The smell reminds me of a beautiful country road. The flavor so unique and wonderful. Tarragon pairs wonderfully with citrus, mustard, horseradish and cream.

A more common herb is mint. But I was also puzzled as to the proper uses! There are many different kinds of mint. Look for peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, and lemon mint all great for tea. As mint tends to take over a garden I developed many different recipes for this herb. Good for sweet and savory a natural companion for lamb I also find it great in sauces for chicken or fish. You can cut extra and place them in vases with flowers for a true spring aroma in your home.

Look for tarragon and mint next time you are at an open-air market or in the produce section. If you have never cooked with them before you are in for an amazing spring treat!

Baby Greens with Tarragon Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1 shallot, minced

4 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

4 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves

1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil

I bag mixed baby greens

In a large bowl whisk together the mustard, the shallot, the vinegar, the tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified. Add the greens and toss the salad well.

Lobster and Tarragon Salad

2 lb cooked fresh lobster meat

1 lb small red potatoes

3 ears corn

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/4-cup olive oil

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

4 cups mixed greens

3 scallions thinly sliced

Pre- heat oven to 350. Pierce potatoes with a fork and roast until tender about 40 minutes. After 10 minutes add the corn and roast for 30 minutes.

Cut meat into 1-inch pieces. Cut potatoes in half, and cut corn from cobs.

Whisk together lemon juice, tarragon, mustard, and salt until combined, then add oil in a thin stream, whisking.

Just before serving, toss together lobster meat, potatoes, corn, vinaigrette, tomatoes, mixed greens, and scallion in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Lemon Tarragon Snap Peas

2 pounds snap peas

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

In a large kettle of boiling salted water blanch snap peas in 2 batches 2 to 3 minutes, or until just tender. With a slotted spoon transfer snap peas as blanched to a large bowl filled with ice and cold water. Drain well. In a large bowl whisk together lemon oil and tarragon. Add snap peas and toss well. Serve snap peas garnished with tarragon sprigs

Shrimp Linguini in a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

4-tablespoon tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

1-pound linguini

In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Add the cream all at once. Cook and whisk until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat and cook for one minute longer. Add vinegar, mustard and tarragon. Cook for one minute longer and then simmer to keep warm while cooking pasta and shrimp. In a large soup pot bring salted water to a boil and add linguini and cook 7 minutes.

Drain. Cook shrimp in boiling water about 2 minutes until opaque. Drain. Toss shrimp, pasta and sauce. Serve at once.

Lime Tarragon Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1/4-cup olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh limejuice

4 teaspoons tarragon, finely chopped

Arrange chicken in single layer in glass casserole or pie plate. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk oil, limejuice and tarragon in small bowl to blend. Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler or prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Transfer chicken to broiler pan or barbecue. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Mint-Mango Sauce

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded, cut into slices

2 cups fresh mint leaves

4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces

4tablespoons fresh limejuice

2 Serrano chilies, halved, seeded

Puree together in a food processor. Let stand for at least one hour or over night. Serve with grilled fish or chicken.

Mint and Edamame Crostini

1 leek

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 1/4 cups shelled edamame, frozen or fresh

6 T. olive oil

Salt and ground pepper

3 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1 slim baguette

2 T. olive oil

1 hothouse cucumber

About 32 fresh mind leaves, rinsed

Chili powder

Lime wedges

Trim and discard dark green tops and root ends from leek. Split white stalk lengthwise and rinse well to remove dirt between layers. Finely chop leek. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, stir leek, shallots, garlic and soybeans in 2 T. olive oil until leek is limp, 6 to 8 minutes. Place soybean mixture in a food processor and whirl until coarsely pureed. Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil whirling until mixture has a spreadable consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped mint. Slice baguette on a slight diagonal into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange slices on racks on two baking sheets. Brush tops lightly with olive oil. Bake in a 425-degree oven until lightly browned, 6 to 9 minutes. Spread about teaspoon warm soybean mixture on each slice of toast. Rinse cucumber and thinly slice crosswise. Garnish each toast with a cucumber slice, a fresh mint leaf, and a sprinkling of chili powder. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over each toast before eating.

Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto

1-cup pine nuts

6 large garlic cloves

2 cups fresh mint leaves

1-cup fresh basil leaves

1/2-cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice of one lemon

1 5- to 6-pound leg of lamb

2 pounds baby new potatoes

12 ounces baby carrots, trimmed, peeled

Fresh mint sprigs

Finely chop pine nuts and garlic in processor. Add 2 cups mint leaves and basil and chop finely. Add oil lemon and Dijon and blend until pesto is smooth. Cut excess fat from lamb, leaving thin layer. Set lamb in large roasting pan. Make several slits in lamb with tip of small sharp knife. Reserve 1/2 cup pesto for vegetables. Spoon some pesto into each slit; rub remainder into lamb. Sprinkle lamb generously with salt and pepper. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature or cover and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast lamb 45 minutes. Add potatoes to pan and turn to coat in pan juices. Roast 30 minutes. Add carrots and reserved 1/2-cup pesto and turn to coat carrots and potatoes in pesto and pan juices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 140°F. for medium-rare, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes.

Carve lamb into thin slices. Arrange on plates with potatoes and carrots. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Beets with Mint Vinaigrette

1-pound beets

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest (from 2 oranges)

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/2-teaspoon black pepper

1/4-cup olive oil

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

Wash and trim beets and place on roasting pan. Roast until fork tender about 45 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then slip off and discard skins. Cut beets into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

While beets are roasting stir together scallions, 2 tablespoons vinegar, lemon juice to taste, mint, zest, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Add warm beets and toss with vinaigrette and vinegar and salt to taste. Serve warm or slightly chilled.

Mint Soba noodles

12 oz dried soba noodles

1/3-cup rice vinegar

1-tablespoon canola oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/4 teaspoons sugar

1-teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (1 1/2 bunches)

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking, and then drain well.

While noodles are cooking, stir together vinegar, oil, soy sauce, sugar red pepper, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Toss noodles with dressing, mint, and scallions.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog www.Backtothekitchen.net

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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