KY Ingredients: Oregano

Oregano, sometimes known as wild marjoram, is an abundant herb in southern Italian cooking; less so in the north of the country. Its popularization in North America is attributed to soldiers returning from Italy following World War II. It was often referred to as “Pizza Spice”, a dish where they likely encountered it the most often.

Unlike most herbs, oregano is a bit of an oddball in that its taste is stronger and more vibrant when it’s dried than when it’s fresh. Fresh oregano, grown in the Mediterranean basin, can have a mild numbing sensation on the tongue. The cultivars grown elsewhere usually do not have this property.

Dried oregano should be added to dishes at the beginning of the cooking time to ensure it has time to infuse into the other ingredients. Fresh oregano is added near the end of the cooking process to help preserve more of its flavour.

Oregano, part of the mint family, adds a warm and just ever so slightly bitter note to foods. It’s prized for its robust pungency. It’s often paired with tomato in sauces and soups to give some dimensionality to those dishes.

Oregano is a common herb in the cuisine of the Western Mediterranean where it grows wild. It’s used in Turkey to flavour meats, often lamb. In Greece, it provides a bit of zip to the Greek Salad. It’s used on pizza and other southern Italian tomato-based dishes. It’s used in Mexican taco seasoning. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the basic go-to spices in any kitchen… which means it’s easy to run out of it and usually at the worst time.

Substitutes for oregano — Other members of the mint family can often step in for oregano. Thyme is one but the closer choice is marjoram. Marjoram isn’t as heat-stable as oregano so add it at the end of your cooking. If you happen to have fresh oregano at hand, 1 teaspoon (tsp) of dried oregano is the equivalent of 1 Tablespoon (Tbsp) of fresh.

Fresh oregano


Unwrapped Cabbage Roll Casserole

I love the taste of cabbage rolls but as good as they are, they’re not worth the work. This recipe eliminates the tedium but keeps all the taste and the goodness of cabbage intact.

Make ahead tip: Chopped cabbage will keep in fridge for about a week if it’s sealed in a Ziploc bag. Make the sauce ahead of time and assemble the casserole while the oven preheats. Add about 10 minutes to your cooking time if you’re starting with fridge temperature ingredients.

Unwrapped Cabbage Roll Casserole

Course: Main Course

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 35 min

Yield: Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 12 lb ground pork
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans tomato sauce 14 oz
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can diced tomatoes including liquid
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp salt (or favourite no salt seasoning)
  • 14 cup rough chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 12 cups Cooked brown rice 1 cup dried, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 2 lbs cabbage, chopped (approx. 8 cups)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9×13 pan.
  2. Brown ground beef, ground pork, onion, and garlic. Drain any fat.
  3. Add 1 can of the tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, Italian seasoning, (dried basil if using it), dill, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer covered 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and stir in rice and fresh basil.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cabbage and cook until tender-crisp. The aim here is to wilt it so it will fit into the casserole dish, as opposed to cooking it.
  5. Place half of the cabbage in the pan. Top with half of the beef/rice mixture. Repeat layers ending with beef/rice. Pour the second can of tomato sauce over the entire casserole and smooth the surface. Cover loosely with foil
  6. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes. When all is hot and bubbly, remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.


Lime Rice: Instant Pot & Stove top editions

Lime rice is a great side dish for any Mexican styled dinner. We eat it a lot at our house, plus I’ve used it in some rice based casseroles.

I’ve included cooking instructions for both the Instant Pot, seeing as they are everywhere these days and a stove top edition for those of you who haven’t jumped onto the IP bandwagon. The stove top edition is done in the Central Asian style of cooking rice — lots of water and drained after cooking. If you prefer to use another method, have at it. Most of the flavouring agents are added to the already cooked rice, so it makes no difference.

“1789” by miikkahoo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Lime Rice: Stove top edition

Course: Side Dishes

Cuisine: Mexican

Main Ingredient: Rice

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 20 min

Total Time: 25 min

Yield: Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basmati rice or long-grain white rice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or juice from one fresh lime
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or juice from half fresh lemon
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro optional

Directions

  1. Wash the basmati rice in a couple of changes of water to remove much of the excess surface starch. There is no need to do this if you are using parboiled or converted (Uncle Ben’s type) rice.
  2. Using a large pot, bring 8 cups or so of water to a boil. Add rice, salt, and the bay leaf. Stir and allow it to return to a boil. Cook uncovered for 12 minutes or until the rice is tender to the taste. It should be soft to the teeth but not mushy.
  3. Remove bay leaf. Strain the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse with hot water. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add lime zest and juice, lemon juice, and cilantro (if using). Salt to taste.
  5. Mix well and serve.

Instant pot edition to follow

Thanks for reading. Keep cooking; we’ll talk later