As the weather has begun to cool—if you call highs in the mid-60s cool—I’ve started to crave warmer, heartier dinners. Because of the unseasonably warm weather my garden is still a going concern. Not only are my tomatoes still ripening, but my herbs are still fresh and lively.
Nothing in my yard is more lively than the mint. Mint is best grown in a contained area, because at least in this climate, it can easily invade everything else. I harvest it all summer long to keep it from overtaking my tomato plants. Making mint water (letting mint soak in a pitcher of water for a few hours) is a great way to use lots of it. It’s a refreshing way to stay hydrated.
Even though it’s traditionally known as a cooling herb, mint can also brighten savory dishes. One of my favorite fall dishes that has the benefit of featuring homegrown mint and tomatoes, is a hearty lentil dish from my fave cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
This recipe is best when freshly made, but you can warm it up the next day too. If you choose to have it as a leftover, you might want to refresh the mint sauce, as the mint flavor gets absorbed by the rice and pasta. Making the mint sauce is very quick and easy, and it definitely perks up the dish.
The flourish of buttery mint added at the end is what makes this so special. Make this when you have leftover rice, lentils or pasta (or all three). Otherwise it will be excessively complicated and it should be simple.
1 cup farfelle or other dried pasta (2 cups cooked)
1 large onion, diced into ½ inch squares
2 T olive oil
8 Roma tomatoes seeded and neatly diced
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked lentils, preferably green
1 ½ cups cooked long grain white rice
4-6 T butter
3 T chopped mint leaves
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water, then drain and rinse. Sauté the onion in the oil in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 12-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and plenty of pepper, and turn off the heat. Heat the lentils, rice and cooked pasta in a large skillet with ½ cup water. Season well with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes and onion and turn the heat to low. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, when it is sizzling, add the mint leaves and fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the mint sauce and grind in plenty of pepper.