Yesterday, my company had its first Iron Chef-style food competition. The secret ingredient: Mint.
Now I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with mint. To me, its the red-headed step-child of herbs that I’m likely to buy for savory dishes. Blame it on too much mint-chocolate chip ice cream, but in my mind, mint belongs in desserts, toothpaste and chewing gum alone.
However, since I am unable to resist a challenge and am addicted to the adrenaline rush of a good workplace culinary competition of any kind, I decided to participate.
And oh boy was I glad I did! Turns out, mint really isn’t so bad- it nicely complements so many different flavors, including sweet, savory and spicy, with a crisp, refreshing taste.
We had a wide range of different dishes brought in for the competition- including mango-mint sushi, israeli couscous salad, pea-ricotta-mint crostini, Vietnamese-style chicken salad, minty brownies and cookies, and watermelon-feta salad (the eventual winner of the contest, brought in by my work wife Andrea- so proud)
Here’s a look at my contribution:
Vietnamese-Style Beef Salad with Mint
- 1 seedless cucumber
- 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 pound fresh pineapple chunks (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 pound deli sliced roast beef, cut into ribbons
- 12 sprigs fresh mint, chopped coarsely
1) Halve cucumber lengthwise, then slice diagonally 1/4 inch thick.
2) Stir together lime juice, water, fish sauce, sugar, red-pepper flakes, and shallot in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved.
3) Arrange pineapple and cucumber on a platter and drizzle with some of dressing. This can be done an hour (or more) in advance- allowing the flavors to meld.
4) Drape roast beef slices on top and sprinkle with mint. Serve with remaining dressing on the side or over top.
This was a really fun idea for the workplace, and not only do I have a new-found appreciation for mint, but I am really excited for next month’s secret ingredient: Ginger! What do you think I should make?