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using last harvest of summer’s mint and basil

Tommy C. Simmons, An enthusiastic cook
Photographs Tommy C. Simmons

October marks the end of the mint and basil-growing season in Georgia and Louisiana. However, before both herbs flower and go completely dormant or freeze, I try to get at least one or two recipe-amount harvests to go into recipes for tailgate dishes that will travel well.
I snip clusters of mint and the last stems of the sweet basil, wash them well in cool water to remove mud splashes and insects and then trim each leaf to remove tough stems, withered spots, and insect bite holes. By the time I’m done I have about ½ a cup of chopped mint and 2 cups of basil leaves to work into my dishes.

With the mint, I make Mardi Gras Rice and Corn Salad and with the basil, I make a zesty tasting Stuffed Vegetable Po-boy. Both dishes can be prepared ahead and chilled in the refrigerator until ready to pack and take to a tailgate party. Here are these simple recipes I think you’ll enjoy trying:

Mardi Gras Rice and Corn Salad
Home kitchen-tested recipe
Serves 12. Adapted recipe is from the American Institute for Cancer Research.

3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes or 3 tbls. chicken broth
1 1/2 cups purple rice (I use Blanca Isabel Purple Rice, if you can’t fine purple rice, use yellow rice, Wild Pecan rice or an aromatic-flavored rice of choice)
3/4 cup corn kernels (frozen and defrosted or canned)
2 whole green onions, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup (according to taste) finely chopped mint
3 tbls. coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 tbls. chopped red onion
1 tbl. Steen’s cane vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Bring water to boil. When boiling, dissolve chicken bouillon cubes or stir in chicken broth. Add rice, stir, bring to a boil, lower temperature to low or simmer, put top on pot and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through. Remove from burner and let rice cool slightly for 15 minutes.
  2. Spoon warm rice into a large bowl. Combine with corn, green onions, mint, nuts, and red onion.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and olive oil, then add to the rice mixture. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If possible, cover and let stand for 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop. Keeps three days in refrigerator if tightly covered. Pack in cooler to take to a tailgate party and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Artichoke and Basil Hero
Home-kitchen tested recipe
Serves 6 to 8. Adapted recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens magazine clipping (unknown date).

2 cups fresh basil, leaves only
1/2 cup olive oil or salad oil
4 tbls. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbls. capers, drained
2 tbls. Steen’s cane vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
4 tsps. Dijon-style mustard (I used Zatarain’s Creole mustard)
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1 (16-oz.) loaf unsliced French bread
1 (12-oz.) can or jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
4 ozs. sliced provolone cheese
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 3 Campari tomatoes)
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

  1. In a blender container or food processor bowl, combine the basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, capers, vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Cover; blend or process until nearly smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cut French bread in half lengthwise. Hollow out each half, leaving a 1/2 to 1-inch shell. (Save breadcrumbs for another use.)
  3. Spread the basil mixture over cut side of each bread half. On the bottom half, layer artichoke hearts, provolone cheese, tomato slices, and spinach leaves. Cover with top half of bread.
  4. Wrap loaf in heavy foil and chill until ready to slice and serve. Cut sandwich crosswise to serve. The sandwich actually slices more easily the next day, so if possible make a day ahead. For tailgate party, keep sandwich chilled until 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Wrapped whole sandwich will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.


About Tommy C. Simmons
Today, Simmons describes herself as “an enthusiastic cook.” After many years of working as a food columnist and food editor, she took early retirement to pursue her recreational interests in art, gardening, golf, target shooting, and hiking. “What I discovered,” she said, “is I missed trying new recipes and sharing favorites with readers.” She now writes recipe columns for the GardenSmart e-newsletter and a neighborhood magazine. Simmons is looking forward to hearing from more cooking enthusiasts who want to share their much-loved recipes. Contact her at [email protected].

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