Cooking with herbs: Mint pesto for lamb
My husband was on the deck grilling succulent little loin lamb chops the other evening, and I was pining for Maggie’s Mint Jelly.
But neither Maggie nor her mint jelly (which I did not appreciate as a kid) is any longer of this world, and despite how easy it is to make, I hadn’t done so in a few years. But with an herb garden full of marauding mint, I knew I could do something clever — and fast.
Pesto! The basic recipe is an easy one, and the variations are endless. I would substitute mint for basil, and — voila! — a minty accompaniment for the lamb chops (which by this time were nearly grilled to a slightly pink medium rare).
I pulled the pesto template from my head (see below) and, like the jazz performer I want to be in my next life, began improvising.
Herbs (usually basil and always fresh)
Oil (usually olive)
Nuts (usually pine nuts which are pretty expensive)
Grated cheese (usually Parmesan or Romano)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Beverly’s Mint Pesto
Amounts are approximate — vary them according to your own taste.
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves and a few leaves of fresh rosemary (thyme or oregano would be nice too, especially if you wanted a Greek touch)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pecans (because that’s what I had in the cupboard)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grindings of fresh pepper
A small squeeze of fresh lemon juice (next time I’ll add a little grated lemon rind too)
I did not add cheese. In my culinary mind, lamb just didn’t call for it.
I threw all the ingredients in a blender (the food processor was too large for such a small batch), and whirred it to a pre-pureed state. It was served in a ramekin and garnished with a sprig of mint, but a tiny slice of lemon might have added contrasting color and given a hint about the additional ingredient. Or better yet, I’d garnish with both.
That’s the fun of pesto. The sky — or at least your herb garden and your imagination — is the limit!
Beverly M. Elander, who resides in Schenectady’s Historic Stockade neighborhood, writes “The Dutch Oven” column for The Stockade Spy and is an occasional contributor to Food Forum.