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.
Who owns a recipe? The chef? The restaurant or hotel? How much of a change needs to be made to make an original out of a copy? This question was the basis of a seven year legal battle over the Sachertorte, a prized Austrian dessert. For the details, 1843 takes it away.
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
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1⁄2 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)
- 1⁄4 cup rough chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
- 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 1⁄2 cups Cooked brown rice 1 cup dried, cooked
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 2 lbs cabbage, chopped (approx. 8 cups)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9×13 pan.
- Brown ground beef, ground pork, onion, and garlic. Drain any fat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 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.
Lime Rice: Stove top edition
Course: Side Dishes
Main Ingredient: Rice
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Total Time: 25 min
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove bay leaf. Strain the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse with hot water. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add lime zest and juice, lemon juice, and cilantro (if using). Salt to taste.
- Mix well and serve.
Instant pot edition to follow
Thanks for reading. Keep cooking; we’ll talk later
A drink from ancient Rome is making a comeback. Read The Economist 1843′s look at the brand-new old fashioned fad — the vinegar drink.
With a little prep time the night before, this can be a very quick to the table weeknight dinner. Chop the chicken up and store in one container in the fridge. Chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces and store in a separate container. Finally, make up the sauce and have it at hand when you’re ready to cook. Dinner will be done in about 30 minutes.
Sheet Pan Cashew Chicken Recipe
Cut everything into bite sized pieces
- 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken (breasts or thighs both work)
- Approximately 3 -4 cups of mixed raw vegetables. Good choices are cauliflower, bell peppers, red onion, green beans, broccoli florets, carrot slices. Use what’s in your fridge, according to what your family’s tastes.
- 1 cup of raw cashews
- 2/3 cup Soy Sauce low sodium
- 3⁄4 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar or Rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. Honey
- 1 Tsp. Sesame Oil
- 1 1/2 Tbsp of Garlic Ginger Paste OR 2-3 cloves garlic and 1″ minced ginger
- 1⁄2 tsp. Salt
- 1⁄2 tsp. Pepper
- pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
- 1⁄2 Cup Water
- Juice of 1 lime optional
- In a medium sauce pan, combine all of the sauce ingredients. Heat on medium-high to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and stir frequently until the sauce thickens. It will be quite thick and will thin out in the oven as the chicken and vegetables release their moisture. Take the sauce off the heat and set aside for step 5
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Line a 9×13 baking dish or sheet pan with foil for easy cleanup.
- Spread chicken evenly over the baking sheet
- Pour approximately 1 cup of the sauce over the chicken. Toss with tongs to coat evenly with the sauce.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes
- Remove from oven and add your the mixed vegetables and cashews to the pan. Add the remaining sauce and toss to coat the ingredients with the sauce.
- Bake another 12-15 minutes until chicken is completely cooked and vegetables are tender.
- Serve with cooked rice.
Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.
I’m lucky to live in one of the most seafood rich markets in the world. We grow the best lobster, and the best mussels money can buy (Sorry, Belgium). With these blessings on our doorstep, you can bet our cooks have come up with some great ways of enjoying it. This seafood pasta sauce is great served as the filling on a simple lasagna or a penne bake. A sauce like this can instantly elevates a simple plate of plain cooked spaghetti to a full-fledged feast.
Seafood Pasta Sauce
Course: Kitchen Basics
Yield: 4 cups
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 shallot finely minced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 Tbs all-purpose flour or favourite GF substitute
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- 1⁄8 tsp pepper
- 1⁄8 tsp nutmeg
- 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1⁄2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 3⁄4 cup milk (any fat percentage)
- 1⁄4 cup heavy cream 35% fat or your market equivalent
- 1⁄4 cup grated cheese Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss etc
- 1⁄2 cup cooked lobster cubed
- 1⁄2 cup cooked shrimp diced
- 1⁄2 cup seared scallops diced
- 1 fresh lemon, juiced or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
- chopped parsley for garnish – optional
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
- When the frothing has subsided, add shallots and cook lightly until soft.
- Add mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms release their moisture.
- Sprinkle flour over top the cooked vegetables and stir, allowing the flour to cook slightly and combine with the butter.
- Add the broth and stir, followed by milk. Stir well while the sauce thickens. Do not boil. Remove from heat once the sauce has thickened.
- Add cream and stir.
- Add the seasonings – salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne (or hot pepper flakes) and stir.
- Add the cooked seafood and stir gently enough to mix. Add lemon juice.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as required.
- When serving, reheat until hot over medium heat. Will keep in the fridge for 2 days.
Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.
Compared to the price of the ingredients, bottled stir fry sauce is frightfully expensive. This is a basic recipe that works well with meat or vegetarian stir fries. Use it like you would the bottled versions. It can also be made ahead to help save time on those busy week nights.
Course: Kitchen basics
- 2⁄3 cup soy sauce low sodiium
- 1⁄2 cup chicken broth low sodium
- 1⁄3 cup rice wine or rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar or honey
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- Mix all ingredients together in a Mason jar with a lid and shake to blend. When the stir fry vegetables are as done as you want, push them to the side of the pan/wok. Pour the stir fry into the pan and let it thicken. This will only take a minute or so. Take the pan/wok off the heat. Pull the stir fry ingredients through the sauce and serve.
- Alternative directions — put all the ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a boil.. Whisk to ensure it remains smooth while it thickens. It can be refrigerated for a week.
Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.