Few weeks ago this word appeared in an email I received as the chosen ingredient for the next Velveteers challenge.
Mint; one of the readily available ingredients that never made it into my pantry. Why? I suppose I got scarred by all those medicinal tablets with mint flavor I had to employ to heal my sore throat; I think I liked more the raspberry flavored cough syrup.
That freshness coupled with the chemical taste of medicines was quite a nightmare. Not even bitterness or extreme sourness made me shrivel into a gothic grimace like menthol.
I like mint’ scent, I have always liked it but keep the shrub out of my mouth please!
Once I moved to Bonn though I got to know another kind of mint, I didn’t even know there where different varieties of it (as there are for basil). The mint variety that we most readily get in Sicily is peppermint aka natural chewing-gum or shall I reiterate saying one of the noble plants mostly distorted by synthetic flavorings? And don’t get me started with oranges…
The mint we get in Bonn is mostly spearmint. Less mentholated greener and more aromatic, perfect for a balsamic infuse as the mint tea so cherished by some middle eastern and African cultures (and also by Germans actually).
Its aroma is sweeter, less pungent; more inviting. Its taste though lends itself very easily to an unpleasant bitterness that wipes out all the good sensation. To tackle this month challenge I then decided to buy a nice bunch of fresh spearmint and nibble on it in order to record its aromas and flavor. I found something I liked but I had to take care of that harsh bitterness experienced with the chewing: a mint salad was ruled out. Mint is better when mixed up into something, it makes magic when mixed with parsley in tabboule/tabouli or with some quark and honey for a refreshing dessert to enjoy while being swept by the warm summer breeze.
I knew by then that I had to use mint as an accent in the dish, not its main component.
Following our mail exchange, Aparna, Asha, Pam and me decided to feature in each of our future Velveteers’ challenges mostly seasonal ingredients. Summer is the season for juicy fruits and berries (we had quite long winter here…) so I headed toward the local grocery that features always the best that trees and land can provide us in the shape of herbs, falling apart ripe apricots, melons, pomegranate, leafy vegetables and 3-4 varieties of peppers among other things.
I picked some dark and clear cherries along with the sweetest and sexiest peach you can possible find: the flat Chinese peach (also called doughnut peach).
They are a very aromatic little fruit, flat with a central kernel. Its surface shades from a magenta-red hue to a white greenish one. Its interior is of a warm white, juicy, refreshing and sweet; a real delicacies.
The sesame seeds gave their place to tahini and the sugar to caramel and the result was a:
Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce
Tahini butterscotch sauce:
- 1 tsp sugar;
- 2tsp butter;
- 4tsp cream;
- 1 1/2 to 2 tsp tahini, to taste;
- Water, if necessary.
- 2 flat peaches, cut into chunks;
- 2 cherries, cut into wedges;
- 2 big leaves of spearmint; julienned.
In a small saucepan (with a clear finish possibly, to see the caramelisation) put the sugar and let it melt over a very low flame. When it will start to caramelize shake the pan gently and take it out of the fire as soon as it will have achieved an amber color. At this point, add the butter; the pan will sizzle as the butter cools down the sugar. With a spoon stir gently over low flame until all the sugar will be melted and let the butter solids caramelize. When you will smell a wonderful nutty aroma you will know that it is ready. Add then the cream to the sauce pan and stirring let the sauce thicken a little bit; if it will reduce too much, it will split. No worries, you haven’t lost your time and ingredients; simply add some water to it (1/2 tsp or so) and a little more cream to reform the emulsion (the sauce splits because it hasn’t enough water to keep the emulsion going).
While the sauce cools down a bit, chop the peaches and cherries. To pit them simply slit the fruits all the way around (along the flattest plane for the peaches) and twist the two half gently to expose the pit and then remove it.
In two small ramekins, dispose the fruits, drizzle with the tahini butterscotch sauce and the julienne of mint.