I AM A……..OREGANO

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Yia sou, that’s “Hello” in Greek. Me lene or, “joy of the mountains”, that’s oregano in Greek and yes, I AM Oregano and I bet you guessed it, I am from Greece. Greece was the first country to grow and use me thousands of years ago.  I became popular in North America when soldiers returning from World War II brought me back with them to use on their Pizza’s. Now, everybody loves me for just about everything—the Italians especially love me and use me in all their dishes.

I am Very popular. I’m not just used for culinary purposes, I am also used for medicinal reasons, and I was believed to hold magical properties as well. Ancient Greeks believed that I was a useful poison antidote and was used extensively both internally and externally to treat skin irritations and infections, dropsy, convulsions, and as an antidote for narcotic poisons. In Shakespearean times, I was used for just about everything.

It is said I encourage good luck and good health. I was used in spells for happiness, tranquility, luck, health, protection and letting go of a loved one. I am always happy and I symbolizes joy. Growing oregano near your home is said to protect it from evil forces and if you spread me on the ground I can repel snakes. I can ease a toothache and help you if you have a cough or asthma.  In the western culture, I’m generally associated with spaghetti and pizza, but I am so much more than just flavor for your food.

The Romans would chew me as a cure for rheumatism, toothache, indigestion, and as a cough suppressant. Now you’re not going to believe this, but, I have a higher antioxidant activity than well-known foods such as vegetables, berries and fruit. Three different types of my cousins — Mexican, Italian and Greek — scored the highest in antioxidant activity of different herbs. I had 3 to 20 times higher antioxidant activity than the other herbs studied.

I’m pretty strong for just a little herb, I have 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries. Just one tablespoon of fresh me was found to contain the same antioxidant activity as a medium-sized apple. I even have a higher antioxidant potential than garlic!

The Chinese doctors use me for fever, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and itchy skin. No wonder they call me “Joy of the Mountains”. Researchers say that you should use me instead of salt and artificial additives.  I am much better fresh; I can be used in so many different foods, in salads, casseroles, soups, sauces and poultry dishes. And, of course, pizzas!

Think about it, in addition to adding flavorful nuance and zest to meals, I can provide significant health benefits when included in a balanced diet. I am so wonderful! O.K. enough about me, now I’m going to help you with some magnificent recipes so you can use me every single day. You know I love you and want you to be happy and healthy, use me, it’s O.K. I don’t mind.

MARINATED BEETS

I love pickled beets but have never made them with Oregano—sounds good to me. Plus, what a healthy treat. I put them in all my sandwiches and a great little make-ahead side dish that goes well with roasts and veggie feasts. Not quite pickled but still sweet and also a little sour.

  • About 5 good sized beets                             2 cups white or red wine vinegar
  • 8 cups water                                                  pinch of salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced                                    1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 cup olive oil

Wash and scrub the beets under cold running water. Place them in a saucepan with the vinegar, salt and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 1¼ hours until the beets are tender. Meanwhile, combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Once the beets are cooked, drain, place on a cloth and pat dry. Remove the skins with the help of a cloth. Cut into slices, place in the marinade and mix well. Leave for a day before serving. Keep refrigerated.

WARM SALAD OF POTATOES, SWEET RED ONIONS AND OREGANO 

  • 8 medium-sized potatoes                 2 small sweet red onions, sliced very thinly
  • 2 Tbsp green olives, chopped           ½ Tbsp dried or fresh oregano
  • 8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil             2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt

Cook the potatoes until tender and slice. Place in large bowl with sliced onions and green olives. Add oregano, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Mix well and serve immediately.

OREGANO PESTO

Large bunch of oregano, washed, dried and stemmed.
1 – 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
1-3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to a food processor or mini chop. Drizzle in oil (amount will depend on how much oregano you have) a TBSP at a time until you have desired consistency. Whiz until combined. You can add toasted pine nuts or walnuts if you like.  Store in airtight container in the fridge or freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen remove pesto cubes to a plastic zip top bag and remove from the freezer when needed.

Ideas for the pesto:

  • mixed with butter and smeared on bread for an herby garlic bread
  • toss toasted bread cubes in it for salty croutons to top soup
  • toss toasted pita wedges in it for pita wedges to dip in soup
  • freshen jarred spaghetti sauce with 2 cubes to make the sauce taste home-made
  • Use your imagination!

HERBED SALMON

You can use this method on pretty much any type of thick fish filet if salmon is not available. The herbs, wine and lime gives fish a fabulous flavor.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless salmon filet about 1-inch thick
  • 1/2 lime                                               2 Tablespoons white wine
  • 1 tsp mayo or butter                         1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder                        1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper                        1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed                      1/4 tsp sweet paprika

Combine all ingredients and drizzle over fish, wrap in a foil packet and cook in a 475-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Stin iyia sou (Cheers)

Joy of the Mountains

Kathryn Hartwell

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