A Perennial Flower That Grows Tall And Has Bells Food And Flavor Pairings: How To Cook With Fresh Oregano, Including 2 Recipes

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Food And Flavor Pairings: How To Cook With Fresh Oregano, Including 2 Recipes

Have you ever thought of adding fresh oregano to a fruit compote? How about tossing a tablespoon of the fragrant leaves in an omelet? Oregano is a powerfully pungent herb, but used in moderate quantities it lends a unique aromatic combination of earthy, floral, and spicy tones to both sweet and savory dishes.

In order to enjoy your herbs all year long you can dry them. To dry fresh oregano trim the plant in the morning (this is when the leaves are the most fragrant) Wash well, drain. Then wrap them in a towel to remove most of the moisture. Transfer to drying racks for a couple of days.

Then, cover them loosely with tissue paper to prevent dust from forming over the next two to three weeks while they completely dry. When they crumble between your fingers they’re ready to be stored in glass jars or sealed in paper bags with holes punched in them. Keep in a cool dark place and if possible, use within one year.

Keep in mind that dried herbs produce a more intense flavor, so reduce the amount that you would use fresh by 1/2 or even 3/4 in some recipes.

There are at least three to four dozen species of this perennial. Here, I’m going to chat about two that are growing in my little farmer’s market, Mexican and Italian.

Mexican Oregano

Mexican oregano has the sweetness of licorice, is related to lemon verbena, and is utilized as a spice throughout Mexico. This south of the border delicacy has a spicy sharpness blended with the traditional oregano aroma. Its hunter green, pear-shaped leaves spruce up butter beans, peas, chicken, fish, and snap beans.

Native to Western, South Western Eurasia, and the Mediterranean Region, this stalwart little shrub grows abundantly on rocky slopes along the southwestern edge of the Edwards Plateau and Mexico, south to Durango.

Not only does it taste good, it’s good for you. Mexican oregano contains flavenoids and has beneficial antioxidant activity.

See how the oval, elongated, somewhat hairy leaves add zest to this Shrimp Creole dish:

Spicy, sweet, and succulent Shrimp Creole. Serve it over brown rice or whole grain pasta and you have a healthy go to meal for the family or a deliciously romantic candlelight dinner for two!

Virginia Style Shrimp Creole

Ingredients

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup celery

1/2 cup green bell pepper

1/2 cup of onion

1 to 3 cayenne chili peppers (depending on how much spice you like. I tend to go hot.)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup white wine (Chardonnay)

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1-14 1/2 ounce can Mexican or Italian style tomatoes

1-8 ounce can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste

8 – 10 fresh basil leaves (purple or green) OR 2 teaspoons dried basil

1 tablespoon fresh Mexican oregano OR 1 teaspoon dried

5 cups whole grain or white pasta (you can also use rice.)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté celery, peppers, and onion until tender. Add garlic. Cook 2 more minutes. Add wine and let it reduce down for about 7 minutes. Pour in chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Cook about 7 minutes.

Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and sauce. You may need to turn heat up to medium high. Mix in sugar. Then salt and pepper. Let it heat up to bubbling for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped or dried herbs. Bring heat back down to medium or medium low. You want it to bubble slightly but not be boiling and popping out of the skillet. Let this cook for about 30 minutes so the flavor from the herbs can permeate throughout the sauce.

Add shrimp and cook until they turn pink and just start to curl at the edges. About 6 – 8 minutes, depending on size. Keep an eye on them so you do not over cook, as they will be tough and rubbery.

Boil water in a large sauce pan for the pasta and cook according to box directions. This is wonderful with a garden salad and maybe a small slice of French or sourdough bread, if you want to splurge!

There are many variations to Shrimp Creole. This is just one that I’ve settled on and really love! You may prefer it more or less spicy but to me it isn’t Creole if it doesn’t have some kick to it. You can use jalapenos or any hot pepper you want or even crushed red pepper flakes or dried cayenne. No matter how you mix it up, this dish will be one you want to try again and again!

Italian Oregano

This is the small green foliage that provides that familiar pasta, pizza, and calzone aroma of an Italian restaurant. But it’s also amazing paired with butternut squash, pumpkin dishes, lamb, barbecue sauce, and Brussels sprouts.

Italian oregano is a cross between sweet and wild marjoram. Because it’s milder in flavor than Mexican or Cuban oregano it’s less likely to overpower the other flavors in a dish.

Most of the dried you buy in the store is a combination of Italian oreganos so you probably won’t duplicate that mixture exactly but you can create delicious blends from your own dried herbs. Mix 2 tablespoons of three or four different oreganos with 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Or, try 2 tablespoons each of dried oregano, basil, and thyme, 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon of a ground red and black pepper blend. These make delicious creative dry rubs for chicken, pork, and beef, as well as a snazzy sprinkle of flavor for sautéed or grilled vegetables.

Here’s a fantastic burger idea for lunch or dinner:

These turkey burgers pack such a wallop of flavor that even the heartiest of red meat lovers won’t miss the beef! And the mango rum sauce is the icing on the sandwich.

Beef Be Gone Turkey Burgers With Mango Rum Sauce

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh Italian oregano, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced bell pepper

1 teaspoon Jack Daniels number 7 mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for more or less heat)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

4 slices of pepper jack cheese

4 ciabatta rolls

enough fresh spinach leaves to cover one side of bread

Mango Rum Sauce (recipe below)

Mango Rum Sauce

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh mango, sliced in chunks

1 teaspoon lime curd

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons Mango Rum

1 teaspoon honey

5 drops of Tabasco (adjust for your taste)

1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream

Directions For Sauce

Add first 6 ingredients to blender. Mix well. Pour into bowl and stir in sour cream. Can be made ahead and is also wonderful on chicken and fish. Mango pairs well with spicy food and rum, well it blends with almost anything, doesn’t it?

Directions For Burgers

Mix all by hand and shape into 4 equal patties. Cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Do not press the burger down with the spatula. Turkey is quite lean and you want to keep all those delicious juices trapped inside until you take that first succulent bite! Turn once and leave it alone. In the last couple minutes of cooking add a slice of cheese to each patty and allow to melt.

Serve on ciabatta rolls or bread of your choice, with a layer of spinach leaves and a dollop of mango rum sauce.

These turkey burgers can be shaped into mini patties and served up as appetizers with the sauce for dipping. So take them along to your next party as a low carb addition!

Whether you dress up breakfast, lunch, or dinner with oregano, I hope this article has given you ideas to try, and the inspiration to experiment in your own kitchen with the fresh flavor of herbs.

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