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Monday, May 28, 2012

Backyard Bounty

Ted is a frustrated gardener.  We live in the city where farmland is at a premium.  Or rather, I should say that farmland is nonexistent.  But that doesn't stop Ted.  Every summer he valiantly tends to his tomatoes and whatever else he can manage to squeeze into our urban sized backyard.

The one crop we always have an abundance of is mint.  This is probably because mint is one of those things that doesn't need an invitation to grow and take over every millimeter of available space.  I have to say that Ted does a pretty good job of reigning the mint into a small square of space, but it's not easy.

The net result of all this is that I have to make an effort to cook with mint.  If I didn't, we would be completely overrun with the stuff.  Yes, we could just remove it and be done with the mint.  But that would be no fun.  So, I am constantly on the lookout for recipes that call for mint.

This recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis  not only calls for mint, it call for a lot of mint, which makes it even better -- both in taste and in usefulness.  It also calls for a lot of basil, which Ted also grows and that we have in abundance.  The recipe is quick to prepare, pretty low in fat (which at this time of the year everyone is thinking about) and has a pleasant kick to it courtesy of the chili peppers.

You can go all out and make a trip to an Asian market to pick up your ingredients for this recipe.   Conversely, you can do what I did, which was just to wing it with what I had in the house.  Either way is delicious.

Recipe:  Spicy Mint Beef
(Giada De Laurentiis)

* Note:  I took the lazy approach and used serrano chilies, regular basil (because that's what grows in our backyard), and in place of the sweet and black soy sauces, I used 1/4 cup regular soy sauce mixed with 1/4 cup honey.

Make sure to assemble all of your ingredients before you start cooking.  This recipes goes very fast and you'll want to be ready to roll.


3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Thai chiles, such as prik kee noo, or 3 serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 pound flank steak, very thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup whole fresh mint leaves


In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chiles and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the steak and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the shallots and bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the fish sauce, sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce and chili paste. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook, stirring frequently until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and serve.

Serving suggestion: sticky or steamed white rice

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