Cool It Now: Fresh Mint for Warmer Weather

May 24, 2013

Andrew White
Executive Chef, Tombo Grille
May 24, 2013

Forest Acres’ Tombo Grille takes the neighborhood bistro concept to the next level by using sustainably produced, SC foods and hosting great events like their $9 Live Music, Burger or BBQ & a Beer series on Mondays. Known for his great work at MoMo’s a couple of years back, Chef Andrew White is a regular on the Slow Food Columbia events circuit.

As the temperature rises and the days get a bit longer, I find myself cooking lighter and spicier foods, slowly working with Southwestern cuisine as well as Southeast Asian cuisine and sometimes fusing the two.  One of my favorite spring ingredients which helps brighten and refresh during the warmer spring months is fresh mint.  Mint is easily found in local markets and grocery stores and is also an easy herb to grow. It can be used in a variety of ways from savory to sweet.

A great way to utilize mint is, of course, in a salad, which can utilize a few other key spring ingredients. One such salad has arugula, strawberries, goat cheese fritters, and mint-cucumber vinaigrette.  
This is a very simple salad to make, and if you don’t want to fry the goat cheese fritters, you can make a compound cheese utilizing the same ingredients.  If you enjoy shopping at local markets, you can utilize some fresh local ingredients.

Fortunately, here in Columbia, and at my restaurant Tombo Grille, we are lucky to be able to utilize products such as Freshly Grown Farms arugula, Cottle Farms strawberries, and Split Creek Farms fromage blanc.

1 bunch or box arugula
1 pint strawberries

Fritters: (makes 6-8)
¼ cup cream cheese
¼ cup fromage blanc (goat cheese)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/8 cup chiffonade mint (cut into very thin strips)title=
Pinch of salt and white pepper
2 eggs
1 cup flour
¼ cup milk
1 package panko

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic
½ jalapeno
½ cucumber
1 small bunch spring onions
1 lime (juice and zest)
1 tablespoon Franks Red Hot sauce
2 oz. mint (quite a few leaves)
1 tablespoon honey (possibly more)
Pinch salt and white pepper
1 cup oil (your choice)

For the arugula, simply wash and dry. Half or slice the strawberries depending on the size desired. I usually prefer slicing them so they will stretch a bit further.

For the fritters, bring the cheeses to room temperature and then combine in a mixer with a paddle adding the lemon zest, salt, pepper and mint. Take out, form into small balls and put in the freezer to slightly freeze and set up.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk to make an egg wash. Put the flour into a flat container with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the goat cheese mixture is set and really firm, remove from the freezer and cover in the seasoned flour. Then dunk into the egg wash to coat. From the egg wash, place fritters into the panko bread crumbs. If necessary, dunk back into egg wash and then back into panko if not covered very well. Set aside and fry when needed at 350 degrees until golden. (If over-fried the cheese mixture will leak out.)

For the Vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients except for the oil in a blender and blend well. Slowly add oil to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. If not enough acid, add more vinegar or lime juice. If not enough oil, slowly add more to your liking.

Now it’s time to put together your salad and enjoy. This salad goes really well with some grilled local shrimp or a nice Caw Caw Creek pork chop. Enjoy! 

If you have any questions or want to check out some other fresh spring ingredients, swing by Tombo Grille in Forest Acres and come chat with us. Enjoy your spring and summer, and support your local farms and restaurants!     


This weekly food column is curated by Tracie Broom, who serves on the board at Slow Food Columbia (, publishes The Yum Diary (, and is a founding partner at Flock and Rally: Events + Communications for a Brave New South (

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