Three years ago, Tony and I were wondering what we should cook over the Memorial weekend. We knew that we wanted to try something different, and also that we wanted to grill. Memorial Day was late that year, May 31st, and our garden was already filled with mint.
Mint is an herb commonly used in Sicilian cuisine and, Tony’s mother, Marianna, had planted several varieties in our garden during a visit the previous year. The most prolific crop was one I’d never tried before called Mojito Mint, which we’d purchased from Baker Garden & Gift (a.k.a. my springtime pleasure palace). It is such an aggressive variety that it threatened to take over our garden, but it filled our yard with its heavy, and heavenly, fragrance.
Tony had been poring over recipes all week, but just wasn’t finding what he wanted. Finally, I told him to create something new. “What do you want?” he asked me. I thought for a minute, and replied, “I don’t care what we make as long as there is chicken, and mint. Lots of mint.”
He went out to our garden and came back with a big bunch of the Mojito Mint, and suggested making a chicken dish inspired by the famous Cuban cocktail, the Mojito.
The Mojito cocktail has five basic ingredients: white rum, sugar, mint, lime juice and soda water. For this recipe, we substitute olive oil for the soda water, and add kosher salt and fresh black pepper to make a Mojito marinade for the chicken. Mix the ingredients together first, then toss the chicken in to coat each piece. We marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for two to four hours before grilling, which allows those wonderful Cuban flavors to really settle in.
We were in the mood for something light but flavorful as a side dish, and decided to make a Grilled Corn Salsa. Fresh corn on the cob is easy to find this time of year, and grilling it brings out a wonderful, smoky sweetness and enhances the overall presentation of the dish. Add some red and orange bell peppers, diced grape tomatoes, red onion, minced and seeded jalapeno, fresh mint, sweet basil and, suddenly, you have an edible rainbow to complement the Mojito Chicken.
These recipes are not difficult to make, but there is a bit of chopping in each which can take up some time if your knife skills aren’t the sharpest (pun intended). I highly recommend that you watch Tony’s video this week, as he demonstrates several helpful cutting techniques which will help you save time in the kitchen.
Hardly any of our mint survived the never-ending winter this year, so we’re trying something new by planting all of our herbs and lettuces in gutters which Tony has installed on an outside wall of our garage. We were inspired by photos we saw on Pinterest this winter, and hope this will be a good way to contain the herbs and keep them away from the army of bunnies now taking over our neighborhood. Enjoy the recipes and remember to cook something special for your dad on Father’s Day this Sunday.
Special note: If you made a batch of limoncello over Memorial Day weekend, now is the time to strain it, add the simple syrup and second bottle of vodka, and return to the cupboard for another ten to forty days. You may need to strain it several times until it is completely free of the zest, but it will be worth it.