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Portuguese-Style Mint Rice

I don’t know about your garden, but in summertime the mint in my own vegetable patch always threatens to take over. I love that sweet herb, but how many juleps can one gal make? Luckily I was in Portugal recently and I found that mint, or hortelã, as the Portuguese call it, was a common ingredient throughout the meal there. I ate it in soups, from a refreshing, chilled green melon soup to a lemony chicken sopa; it was paired with fava beans for fish; and, along with olive oil, it dressed a “carpaccio” of thin-sliced oranges for dessert.

But the very best minty dish I tried was the arroz de hortelã — mint rice — at Luar de Janeiro, a low-key, traditional restaurant in the Medieval town of Évora.

Olivia Prates, who has been chef-owner there for 45 years, claims to have invented the signature dish. I must say, in that case she’s a genius because she created a dish that is so delicious and yet laughably simple to make. It requires just a few ingredients, and it comes together lickety-split. That’s because, instead of long-simmering the rice, Prates goes for a quick, hard boil. After steaming the mint in the hot pot of rice, she serves the dish before the rice has fully absorbed all the liquid, for a wildly aromatic, pleasingly soupy side dish to grilled fish, lamb, or pork.

Look out, monster mint patch! I have a new recipe in my pocket, and I’m coming for you with my garden shears.

Rice in 10 Minutes?
This recipe cooks in about half the time of steamed rice, so it’s important to maintain a full boil the whole time so the rice absorbs enough liquid. Expect a texture closer to risotto. Make this with chicken broth for a more flavorful dish or keep it vegetarian with water. You’ll end up with a more neutral flavor, making it an ideal companion for richly flavored foods.


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