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Mint Lightens and Brightens Summer Dishes

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April 24, 2015

The Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May, may be responsible for making mint the king of summertime drinks. Along with big hats, the Derby is famous for its mint juleps, kicking off the warm weather season.This year, mint is making its mark in the culinary scene in some new—and unexpected ways. From pesto to rice salads, mint adds a summery tone to dishes that’s unmatched by other herbs, according to Michael Zappone, Academic Department Director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.Mint is used by chefs to add an additional level of flavor to dishes and drinks, according to Linda Marcinko, Culinary Academic Director at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of St. Louis.“I think mint is great in summer because it brightens up so many dishes. It’s so good to use in sweet items as well as savory dishes,” she says. Marcinko enjoys utilizing mint in Thai beef and noodle salad and iced tea.Having mint on hand is easy, too, because it’s a perennial herb that will come up each year in the garden. According to Marcinko, “it is so easy to grow and so versatile.”The unique flavor of mint may also be used to replace calorie-heavy ingredients in traditional dishes, according to Claire Menck, Chef Director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Wisconsin.Marcinko lightens up pesto by replacing the traditional basil with mint—and eliminating the cheese. Try her mint pesto, mint syrup, and rice salad to give your summer meals an extra minty kick.Mint Pesto – Great with pasta or lamb chops2 large bunches mint, trimmed of stems (just use the leaves)1 bunch cilantro (can use some of the stems if they are not too thick)6 cloves garlic, peeled¾ cup walnuts½ cup olive oil¼ cup vegetable brothSalt and pepperCrushed red chilies, optionalProcedure: Combine the mint leaves, cilantro, garlic and walnuts in place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until it is roughly chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and vegetable stock. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the Chile flakes.Summer Rice Salad4 cups cooked basmati rice1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas, blanched4 green onions, thinly sliced1 small red bell pepper, diced1 small jalapeño pepper, finely minced½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted½ cup chopped mint leaves½ cup olive oilSalt and pepper to tasteProcedure: Cut the blanched sugar snap peas in half, lengthwise. Put the rice, peas, onions, red bell pepper, jalapeño, pine nuts, and mint leaves in a bowl. Toss together well. Pour on the olive oil and stir to coat all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for about 2 hours before serving. Serves eight.Mint Simple Syrup – Perfect with lemonade or mojitos2 cups sugar6 cups water1 large bunch mint, roughly choppedProcedure: Combine the sugar and water in a medium-sized sauce pan. Stir to moisten the sugar. Add in the mint leaves. Bringto a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup sit until it is cool. Strain the syrup to remove the mint. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.EDITOR’S NOTE:The Art Institutes is a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. Administrative office: 210 Sixth Avenue, 33rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 ©2014 The Art Institutes International LLC.
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Five Tips for Lighter, Brighter Summer Eating

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March 20, 2015

Simple, fresh and delicious – that’s summertime eating at its best. Less time in the kitchen means more time to enjoy the bright delicious flavors of just picked berries, peaches, greens and other vegetables.
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