BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Minty Fresh

24 Comments

Sparse vines reach weakly upward towards the sunlight filtering in between the thick blanket of leaves above, gently yellowing despite their youth. Choked out by the tall trees overhead that greedily suck down all the rich solar nutrition, our fragile, immature tomato plants never had a chance. Careful weeding and daily watering be damned- Not a drop of those efforts show. For reasons unknown, this will be our worst harvest ever, if you can even call it a “harvest.” It would be a joy to pull even a solitary ripe, red orb from those sagging knots of greenery, but I’m not so optimistic about even that kind of yield.

While I can only look on with envy as friends effortlessly produce vegetables of all colors and shapes from their own backyard gardens, I have but one tiny success to brag about: The mint. Known for being aggressively prolific, spreading like a weed and reseeding itself for years to come, ours finally broke the curse of our sad patch of dirt and actually followed suit. Sprouting and outgrowing the small patch originally allotted to them, the herbaceous leaves now cover nearly half of the paltry expanse, growing like a full, unruly mane of hair, much in need of a trim. And so, with no vegetables to temper my enthusiasm, trim I did.

After batches of mint chocolate sorbet, mint tea, and minted snow peas, the mint still kept coming with no end in sight. Fully confident that the supply would not run short, I went for the gusto and gathered as much as I could before the rainclouds above burst once again, snipping off every viable leaf to make up a fresh take on pesto. Before that quick spread could even finish whirling about the blades of the food processor, I already had a full recipe planned out to put it to work.

Borrowing from a Middle Eastern palate of flavors for inspiration, pomegranate proved to be a perfectly tangy match to this bright and herbaceous paste. Not only do the crunchy arils make an appearance to lend textural contrast, but the foundation of the salad itself, chewy pearls of Israeli couscous, are cooked in pure pomegranate juice as well. Cool, crisp cucumbers punctuate the mixture, lightening the whole dish considerably- And because, as we’ve established, I can’t go a single summer day without getting my cucumber fix.

Even if you don’t have ground cover of mint threatening to take over your entire yard, it’s well worth the effort to forage through the farmer’s market to make the pesto, if not the whole couscous salad. Consider tossing it into potato salad, spread it over crostini, or pack it into sandwiches. The recipe makes enough for leftovers, so you can easily spare enough explore all those delicious options, and then some.

Pomegranate Mint Couscous

Mint Pesto:

1/4 Cup Roasted, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1 – 2 Cloves Garlic
1 Teaspoon White Miso
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2 Cups Loosely Packed Mint Leaves
1/2 Cup Loosely Packed Basil Leaves
1/4 Cup Flax or Hemp Seed Oil
Big Pinch Cayenne Pepper
Salt, to Taste

In a food processor, pulse the sunflower seeds and garlic lightly to break them down a bit, and add in the miso and lemon zest to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and introduce the mint and basil. Pulse again to incorporate, and then with the machine running, stream in the oil. Puree until mostly smooth but still slightly coarse in texture, and season with cayenne and salt to taste. Use right away, or store in airtight container in the fridge. The mint pesto can be made ahead of time refrigerated for up to a week.

Makes About 3/4 Cup

Pomegranate Couscous Salad:

2 Cups 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Dry Israeli Couscous
1/2 Cup Frozen or Fresh Green Garbanzo Beans, or Frozen Green Peas
1/3 Cup Mint Pesto (See Recipe Above)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, if Needed
1 Cup Diced Seedless Cucumber
1/2 Cup Pomegranate Arils
Pinch Ground Black Pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the pomegranate juice and salt to a boil. Add in the couscous, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the green garbanzo beans or peas while the pasta is still hot, thawing or gently cooking the beans with the residual heat. Transfer to a large bowl, and thoroughly mix in the pesto. Add in the oil if needed to loosen up the pesto and more evenly distribute it throughout. Toss in the cucumber, arils, and season with pepper to taste. Stir well, and chill thoroughly before serving.

Makes 6 – 8 Side Servings

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

24 thoughts on “Minty Fresh

  1. I love the idea of a mint pesto! Sunflower seeds would work well too and aren’t nearly as costly as pine nuts, so that’s a plus. :) And I’ve never used Israeli couscous before, gonna have to try it!

  2. I like the idea of adding pomegranate juice! Beautiful pictures…

  3. I love Israeli cous cous and mint in savoury dishes so this sounds perfect.

  4. mint and pomegranate, and all the flavors you used, the basil and miso, oh this looks heavenly – a perfect summer salad!

  5. Aw, I’m sorry for your garden disappointments! If it helps any, 80% of what I planted was eaten by ravening pillbugs–yes, seriously–even though I live in gardening mecca, aka California. However, mint plus pomegranate does sound like the perfect match!

  6. What a great recipe. When I first looked at the salad I assumed they were lentils!

    The funny thing is that as I type this I am eating a smoothie made with the mint I have from my garden…mint is just so darned good!

  7. Mint and pomegranate and israeli couscous! I am in love! This is totally my kind of salad! :-)

  8. When you write it is poetry almost :D
    Your pesto is very exotic with all the new flavours like pomegranate in it – wow :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  9. This would be perfect for our dinner tonight since mint is just about the only thing in the garden that’s still alive in this drought. The pomegranate is a stroke of genius!

  10. I just bought a mint plant, which I’m super excited about, but would never have thought to make a pesto with it! Your writing is so eloquent, well done!

  11. I’ve never had much of a green thumb…not even for herbs! So I’m a bit jealous. I’ll have to stock up at the grocery store to make this though! I love that it’s pomegranate infused.

  12. Oo that sounds and looks so good, bookmarked! I add fruit and fruit juice to my cooking too – really adds to the flavour and nutrition :-D

  13. Ironically, I couldn’t get my mint seeds to sprout this year so I have a mint-free garden. Definitely jealous of your patch!

    The couscous is stellar looking–love the mint & pomegranate in it. Perfect palate.

  14. Yum, I love this idea!

  15. i am right there with ya.. my strawberries and flowers need a green thumb intervention.. i have some pepper, green onions, thyme and lottttsssaaa miiintttt!
    this pesto is calls for a harvest :)

  16. Full sun + vegetables = crop…I think I see your problem girl! Veggies are nutrient hungry little sun worshipers and if you don’t give them enough of either (oh yeh… don’t forget that they LOVE to swim about in tonnes of water as well…) they will turn up their toes in disgust. Can you find somewhere sunny in your garden? Maybe make a few raised beds or put some containers onto a sunny patio somewhere? Your food always looks amazing…so much better than my “get some pumpkin, get some potato…get some brussells sprouts and steam them, put in bowl EAT”…I guess that is why you are a natural food writer and I write about dirt and chickens lol ;)

  17. OK, color me ignorant… I had never heard of the fresh green garbanzo beans. Now that I’ve read your recipe, seen its accompanying photo of the little green garbanzos in the pod, and had my ignorance dispelled by a couple of articles online, I know what they are. I’ll keep my eye out for them at TJ’s or in the Indian grocery. I like your twists on pesto with the sunflower seeds and the super-healthy flax/hemp oil– I’m wondering how the flax or hemp oil affects the flavor? I’ll have to get bold and try it out.

    • Hey, I’d venture to guess that most people haven’t heard of green garbanzos, since we’re so conditioned to think of them as either dried or cooked beige beans! Sometimes I can find them fresh at Whole Foods, but they always stock them frozen, too. Not so sure about Trader Joe’s…

      As for the hemp/flax oil, I just really like the nutty flavor they add to this recipe. You can of course use olive oil or any other oil you favor instead.

  18. What a great idea Hannah, mint pesto…and mix together with pomegranate and Israeli couscous…great great combination…perfect for this Summer weather.
    Thanks for this awesome recipe and hope you are having a wonderful week :)

  19. I don’t have much growing space, but mint is one of the few things I grow (potted) on my balcony. I love how it’s pretty much impossible to kill…perfect for me since I do not have a green thumb, lol! This dish is gorgeous, full of bright flavor…the addition of pomegranate arils was inspired!

  20. The mint pesto sounds really exciting! I can’t really imagine its flavour. I guess I have just got to try it for myself. Just that, the mint in my garden isn’t flowering as well as yours. It’s just a small pot so I think it won’t be enough for a portion of pesto! What do you think will go with this mint pesto for a pasta?

  21. wow that sounds incredible! mint pesto! how creative!

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