Spring is about two months early here in Southern Oregon. The weather is starting to warm up, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming, and the deciduous trees are already starting to bud out. I love warm weather but when it comes too early in the year, it comes with a large cost. The lack of precipitation in the form of rain and the lack of a snow pack in the surrounding mountains means that we are in store for another very dry year here in the Rogue Valley.
With the seemingly early spring, many of my perennial herbs in my garden are ready to pick. What really caught my eye is that my mint has already poked through the soil and is about 6 to 8 inches tall. Mint is one of my favorite herbs and one of the easiest to grow. I just love the aroma, taste and versatility of freshly picked mint. From my own personal experience, if you plant just one little mint plant, it will be more than happy to try to take over your entire yard. That’s why when I grow mint, I plant it in its very own pot where it is safely contained and unable to grow freely where ever it chooses. Once mint is established in your garden, it’s difficult to eradicate without the use of herbicides. And those who know me, know full well that I don’t use herbicides in my garden. Ever…
I currently have 4 varieties of mint growing in my yard. Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Chocolate Mint and Spearmint. I’m planning to add Apple Mint and Pineapple Mint to my little mint collection in the near future.
Fresh snipped spearmint and Italian flat leaf parsley from my garden was used in my Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint. For those who are unfamiliar with Israeli couscous, Israeli Couscous is a small semolina pasta also known as Pearl Couscous, Ptitim or Jerusalem Couscous. It’s mild in flavor and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. The little ball shape of Israeli Couscous makes it perfect for all sorts of soups, salads, main or side dishes. The next time you see Israeli couscous at your local grocery store or online, be sure to buy some. It’s a quick cooking and very adaptable ingredient to have on hand in your kitchen pantry! Enjoy! Tessa
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see instructions below)
- 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (chopped)
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
Begin by heating the olive oil in a 2 quart pan over medium high heat. Add Israeli Couscous to the pan and stir constantly until lightly browned, about 4 1/2 minutes. Reduce heat and slowly add water. Cook covered until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients, toss lightly, then taste and correct your seasonings. Add the mixture to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes 8 – 1/2 cup servings.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking pan add 1 pint cherry tomatoes. Toss lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes collapse. Remove from oven and let cool. Makes little over a cup. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for a few days.
Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette: In a blender add the following ingredients and blend until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Use immediately or keep refrigerated in a tightly covered container for a few days.