I love discovering new and interesting herbs and spices at the farmers market. I’m now at the point where I know which farm is at which market, on any given day. Some days I need to zip in and zip out, getting specific things to cook. Other days I am able to leisurely walk around a market. Those are the times I always discover something new. (I highly recommend the leisurely walk!) A few weeks ago on my trip through the Hilltop Hanover Farm Stand I discovered chocolate mint. I’ve tasted peppermint, spearmint and even cinnamon mint, but never the chocolate scented variety. It has a bright minty flavor with a lingering chocolate taste; really quite interesting. Noodling around in some of my reference books, cookbooks and on line it seemed like this particular herb was suggested with sweet dishes. You know that that means for Seasonal Chef: a sweet to savory challenge!
My first attempt using chocolate mint was simple: a compound butter. These are great to have in your freezer to top on just about anything: meats, fish and/or vegetables. Simply soften a stick of unsalted butter and add your favorite herb and spice.
To this one I added ½ teaspoon of dry orange zest and 1 tablespoon of finely minced chocolate mint. Scrap it on to a piece of plastic wrap, form into a log and freeze.
I placed a few thin slices over my roasted orata fish filet from Port Chester Seafood.
My second attempt was a Hemp Seed Tabouli recipe I came across. Adapting it slightly I used the chocolate mint along with a garlic clove, cucumbers and ½ cup of sliced scallion. Really delicious!
This week’s recipe was a lot of fun to create. I had a few carrots in the ‘fridge and decided to make a cold carrot soup. Usually you find carrot soups made with apples, ginger or curry. I did one a few years ago with carrot and parsnip.
This week I happened to have a peach sitting in the fruit bowl and thought “why not?” Peaches and mint have an affinity for each other, so lets see how it works with the carrot.
I could not have been more pleased. I will tell you that in playing with this recipe I tried using fat free half and half, plain yogurt and coconut milk. In the final taste test I decided the fat free half and half had the right texture for a cold soup. You want it to be a little on the thinner side. All three were great, but this recipe was my favorite: Chilled Carrot Peach Soup with Chocolate Mint. To enjoy the soup a little quicker here is an easy way to chill it down: place in a metal container and then in an ice bath.
Look for chocolate mint the next time you are at the farmers market. It’s sure to be a new favorite of yours too. To keep the leaves nice and bright in your dish, blanch them in a small pot of boiling water for 15-30 seconds, then shock in an ice bath. Drain and pat dry.
If you are looking for a last minute plan for this coming Friday night check out my Couples Cooking Class at Hilltop Farm. We have just a few spots left to enjoy a fabulous sunset cooking class and dinner on the farm. Bring a bottle of wine and a friend for a guaranteed fun evening!