LONDON, June 26 (UPI) -- Given the travails that seem currently to be afflicting her, I wonder whether domestic goddess Martha Stewart might be preparing features for the next issue of her magazine on the best paint treatment for extremely small rooms and what grows best in a bucket.
I would recommend mint for everything.
It's an extremely soothing color to live with over a long period, and if you don't grow it in a pail (are they still a standard prison furnishing accessory?) it tends to spread. Plus you can cook with it.
One of the perplexities that hamper a proper accord between the English and the French is the thoroughly peverse penchant (note the diplomatic use of the French word) of 'les rosbifs' (as the French like to refer to the English) for serving lamb with mint sauce.
Unless you've been brought up to it, it's hard to explain why anyone would want to add to their roast meat a flavor they scrub their teeth with.
It's my least favorite taste. Mint juleps make me gag. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is like licking milky dentifrice. The only minty foodstuffs that slip under my own radar screen are Girl Scout Cookies (which I believe are worth exporting internationally).
Until now, that is.
Because I did not contain it in a bucket when I planted it, I have a mint forest rampaging through my tiny herb garden. And because I can't bear to waste something I've grown, I've discovered there are ways to use it that are really quite acceptable. Delectable, even.
The trick is not to use too much of it.
A few ripped leaves added to a salad give the taste buds an unexpected jerk. It works deliciously in a dish of crunchy Belgian endive where the heads have been sliced diagonally in thin slivers and tossed with a good mustardy vinaigrette, some walnuts and crumbled goats cheese to make it even more grand.
If you're eating outdoors, lay grilled flank steak, thickly sliced, on a bed of washed watercress, with paper-thin raw onion rings, tomato slivers and capers, and scatter overall a handful of torn mint leaves. Put a mayonnaise flavored with mustard, more finely chopped onion, capers and cornichons, and fine bacon bits alongside.
The English never boil new potatoes or peas without a sprig of mint in the water - a barely discernible additive, however certainly present. But if you finely chop a half a handful of mint leaves, press it into softened butter and swirl the potatoes in a lump of it then sprinkle over some rock salt and freshly ground black pepper, it makes a very superior side dish.
The Vietnamese depend upon it to include in their fresh-tasting rice-paper rolls of steamed shrimp and lettuce, dipped into a hoisin-peanut-chili sauce.
The people of the Middle East also make efficient use of the herb. They chop it finely into bulgur wheat salads with skinned and cubed tomatoes, parsley and generous amounts of lemon juice. They add it to yogurt sauces to eat with grilled or skewered meats, or with whatever else they feel like stuffing into a warm envelope of pita bread.
They know its value as a refreshing summer drink. Pour boiling water into a teapot or resilient receptacle over one tea bag and a generous handful of mint leaves. Leave for 5 minutes to steep, then strain into a jug and chill. Or add sprigs of washed mint to a home-made lemonade.
Try this wonderful summer salad from Jamie Oliver, ebullient television "Naked Chef". It takes only minutes to assemble. But you must use ripe juicy peaches. (Good luck in find them in supermarkets...)
Per person you need one peach, one ball of mozzarella and two slices of good Parma ham, torn into strips.
Rip up each ball of mozzarella. Wash and pat dry - but don't peel - each peach, then rip into them, too. Toss them both over a bed of mixed green leaves that you have spread across a wide, shallow plate (if you have 8 to supper, use two such plates. You don't want to serve this in a salad bowl.) Strew over the strips of Parma ham and dress it all with a vinaigrette. Put your clean hands under it and gently turn it about to coat and then scatter torn up mint on top.