After I wrote about judging the Cooking with Mint contest held over the weekend at the 36th Annual Mint Festival, reader Judy Berrios of Hobart wrote me for a special request.
"Dear Philip: I'm interested in growing spearmint. Would you please tell me where I can purchase a start for this plant? I had a good 'crop' in the 1960s when I lived in Central Illinois and even tried to transplant it, but it didn't take. I've moved several times since. But now, at my present location, I would like to start it once more. I remember that once it takes, it really does thrive. I enjoy your columns (both of them!) and look forward to the mint recipes. This is the first time I've written to you. Thank you, Judy Berrios"
Thank you for writing Judy. I'll be happy to share some plant starts for spearmint. Peppermint is a the far more lucrative crop grown in most areas, since the oil is more prized for use in everything from cleaning supplies to cosmetics and cooking. It's easy to spot a field of spearmint, since the plants are a lighter green compared to the deep, dark foliage of peppermint.
My congrats to all of the winners for this year's Cooking with Mint Contest. Bill Soenksen, who has a summer home on neighboring Bass Lake, now lives in Hawaii and won in the "Men Only" category for his roasted pineapple. Kate Henry of Westmont, Ill. won for a delicious chilled seafood cocktail with hints of mint and Kristi Hayworth, who entered a minty cranberry chutney, was a proud mom after her daughters Alexi Lambert, 7, and Alyssa Lambert, 5, both of North Judson, won in the youth division for green mint cupcakes.
These winning recipes are shared for all to enjoy for Friday's official arrival of the first day of summer.
"Nice to Mint You" Grilled Pineapple
1 whole fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored and sliced into rings
1 stick of butter
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
Fresh mint leaves
DIRECTIONS: Prepare pineapple. Heat butter in a saute pan and add brown sugar, heating over medium flame to dissolve. Add a sprinkling of fresh mint, as desired. Saute pineapple rings for 3 to 4 minutes on each side in butter and sugar. Transfer to a hot grill set to a high temperature around 450 degrees. Grill on either side for 5 to 7 minutes, making sure to not over-cook or burn. Makes 8 to 10 serving slices.
Green Frosted Minty Cupcakes
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 drops green food coloring
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS: To make cupcakes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 14 muffin tins with liners and set aside. Over a high flame, bring the 1 cup of water to a boil and pour into a heat-safe mixing bowl. Add cocoa powder and mix with water to dissolve. Allow to cool to room temperature or quick chill in refrigerator. In another bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. In another separate bowl, cream together the softened butter with the granulated sugar using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat in to the sugar mixture. Add vanilla extract and then slowly beat in the flour mixture until well combined. Lastly, beat in the cocoa mixture. Fill each of the lined cups to about 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 16 to 19 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. To make frosting, beat the softened butter until smooth and add sugar, cream, peppermint extract and green coloring. Adjust cream and sugar as needed to create the ideal spreading consistency. Frost cupcakes and garnish with chocolate chips. Makes 14 cupcakes.
Cucumber-Watermelon and Mint Seafood Ceviche Cocktail
1 large prawn
4 bay scallops
4 limes, juiced (this may vary; you need enough juice to completely cover the seafood)
1/2 jalapeno, diced small
1/2 cup chopped mint, divided use
1/4 cup chopped cucumber (seeded)
1/4 cup chopped watermelon
1/8 cup chopped red onion
A few cilantro sprigs, chopped
DIRECTIONS: Chop seafood and mix with lime juice, jalapeno, and half of the mint. (Shaking in a Mason jar works well.) Allow to sit for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator to chill. The shrimp will turn opaque and pink, as a sign that it's done. Add fresh chopped cucumber, watermelon, onion, rest of mint, and cilantro, just before serving. Serve with corn tortilla chips, or crackers. Eat within 24 hrs or the seafood will get rubbery. Makes 1 serving.