Inspired Flavors

Flavor Story: Ground Oregano

Inspired Flavors

Flavor Story: Ground Oregano

Flavor Profile

An intensely flavored herb, ground oregano brings a peppery bite and a slightly sweet, earthy aroma to the kitchen. In leaf form, you’ll recognize it as a favorite add-on topping for pizza, along with red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese. Use ground oregano when you want the pungent warmth but not the visual element of the leaves in the final dish. Oregano is the assertive cousin to marjoram and a member of the mint family of herbs. It’s at home in classic Italian and Greek sauces, and meat and fish dishes. You’ll also love its zippy flavor in dressings and sauces for cooked and raw vegetables. Use your nose as a guide to oregano’s freshness. One whiff should immediately bring to mind the savory-sweet aroma of your neighborhood pizzeria.

Usage

  • Oregano is a natural partner for all things tomato, which makes it a staple in the southern Italian kitchen. From slow-cooked tomato sauce to spiced tomato juice and vinaigrette for a fresh tomato salad, oregano never met a tomato it didn’t like.
  • Greek cuisine relies on oregano for its robust flavor and aroma. You’ll find it in dressings for classic Greek salad, marinades for roasted chicken and pork, seasonings for potatoes and vegetables, and as a spicy complement to lamb.
  • Let’s admit it. All beans—cannellini, great northern, garbanzo—can taste blah without a little something extra. Oregano is our answer.
  • Oregano can bring depth, character, and an herby aroma to any pot of beans. Cook beans from scratch by adding oregano, a bay leaf, half an onion and a stalk of celery to the cooking water. Or flavor canned beans with olive oil, oregano, salt, black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Perfect Partners

  • Oregano is a great complement to all the herbs in the Mediterranean pantry. Make your own Mediterranean blend of oregano, basil, sage and thyme. Stir in salt and pepper and a good pinch of paprika for color. Sautéed chicken never tasted so good!
  • We love how ground oregano’s peppery flavor pairs with a little char from the grill. Try adding it to your favorite marinade, vinaigrette or rub. It’ll lend bold character to grilled poultry, pork and fish.
  • Want to liven up a baked-egg frittata or make a super-savory omelet? Oregano is a perfect partner for eggs and cheese. Whip in a small pinch when you scramble the eggs, along with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Then, buon appetito!
  • Summer vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes go great with oregano. Turn corn into a scrumptious salad with a simple dressing of lemon, olive oil, oregano and garlic. Add a few red pepper flakes and fresh or dried basil to this same vinaigrette to make an excellent dressing for cooked eggplant.

Substitutes

Q: If I don’t have ground oregano on hand, what makes a good substitute?

A: You’ll find a number of excellent substitutes for ground oregano in the Mediterranean pantry. Whole oregano leaves are our first choice, with marjoram as a close second. Like oregano, marjoram is a member of the mint family and shares the herb’s peppery flavor and aroma. It’s just a bit less pungent. Basil leaves or Italian seasoning are also good stand-ins. Be sure to crumble or grind the basil leaves to a powder before adding them to your recipe. Fresh oregano or marjoram, finely minced, is another possibility. One tablespoon of chopped fresh herb equals one teaspoon of dried. Mexican oregano? Not a match. This variety is sharper and lends citrus and anise flavors that might change the flavor of your dish.

History/Fun Facts

Oregano has long been a favorite in the Mediterranean kitchen. In the Greek language, the word oregano means “joy of the mountain,” and was said to be a favorite of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Ancient people attributed special medicinal powers to it. But oregano wasn’t widely consumed in the United States until G.I.s returned from Italy during World War II with a taste for pasta and pizza with tomato sauce. It’s been an American spice-cupboard standard ever since.

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