My neighbor’s name is Luigi. The people on our block call him the godfather, but I don’t think he’s aware of it. Every Friday or Saturday afternoon, I’ll get a call from him saying that he has once again found himself with too much pasta bolognese, Italian wedding soup, focaccia, or any other number of Italian leftovers in quantities that could easily feed ten or more people. “I’ve got some pasta you can’t refuse.”
This is my cue. I carefully pick one of my loaves of homemade sourdough (based on a recipe that was never locked down until Luigi approved of course – after 8 months of trials) and mosey on over. Sometimes it’s a quick exchange through a propped door so the cat doesn’t get out. Other times its talk and dinner in the garden – a carefully tended mosaic of herbs and vegetables straight out of Sunset magazine.
Ever notice those powerful scenes in good Italian mob flicks that take place in the kitchen or garden or around the table? It’s kind of like that. Be prepared to learn something wise.
One herb in the masters garden has prominence over the others. It is the healthy green patch of oregano. Its quite a large patch and Luigi is quite proud of it. After all, he says, “it goes into everything.”
He’s not far off. In Shakespearean times, oregano was used for just about anything. It is said to encourage good luck and good health. It is used in spells for happiness, tranquility, luck, health, protection and letting go of a loved one. It is believed that when worn on the head during sleep, it will promote psychic dreams. Oregano symbolizes joy. ( http://www.herballegacy.com/Branca_History.html )
On its own, oregano can really stand out. A member of the mint family, it does offer up some aromatic enhancement and imparts a leafy earthiness if that’s all you found yourself chewing on. Yet it’s amazing ability to play well with other herbs and foods is where it really stands out. Want to bridge that flavor gap between basil and thyme? Oregano. Make that pizza sauce like the place in the City? Oregano. Or just cleverly impart enough flavor curiosity that the eater keeps wanting more? Oregano. It’s not for everything (unless your name is Luigi), but it does enjoy pairing with such a breadth of foods and dishes that it should be a staple herb in your spice cabinet or herb garden.
Oregano is used in the cuisine of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Caribbean and Mexico. It is a traditional herb in poultry seasoning and is used in turkey stuffing. The flavor combines well with garlic, thyme, parsley, and olive oil.
I’ve always used it quite liberally, especially in those times where I ponder “what does this need?”
Dried oregano, as with most dried herbs, is readily more pungent than fresh. Fresh oregano can be found in most produce sections, and I keep mine in a ramekin with the stems in water and covered with a clear bag in the fridge (where it lasts up to a week).
From sauces and soups, to seasoning meats and vegetables and dressings, oregano is truly a versatile herb. One which also has some emerging health benefits.
It has long been recognized as one of the “functional food” for its nutritional, anti-oxidants and disease preventing properties.
It has also been found to be antibacterial and anti fungal – inhibiting growth of some bacteria that cause food borne illnesses.
In an article published on Science Daily, oil of oregano was found to be effective in killing Staphylococcus bacteria. It was also equally as effective in its germ-killing abilities as common prescription antibiotics like streptomycin, penicillin and vancomycin. ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011011065609.htm )
Maybe that’s why Luigi is still going strong.
Oregano. Now there’s an herb you can’t refuse.
Strawberry Banana Kale Smoothie
- A banana
- 1/2 cup of strawberries
- One large curly kale leaf
- One cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
Ingredients for Strawberry Banana Kale Smoothie
Start by washing and drying your large curly kale leaf. Once washed, rip or cut the kale leaves from the stem and place in your vitamix or any other high powered blender. Discard the stem from the kale.
Next, add in the banana, strawberries and fresh squeezed orange juice. If you don’t have time to make fresh squeezed orange juice, then using store bought will work as well.
Blend this strawberry, banana, kale, and orange juice mixture in your vitamix or high powered blender until all the vegetables and fruits have broken down. What you should be left with is a vibrant green smoothie with a very smooth texture.
This will make two cups of this delicious strawberry banana kale smoothie which should be poured into glasses and enjoyed immediately for the freshest taste!