A member of the mint family, this spicy, peppery herb is commonly used in Mediterranean, South American, and Cajun cooking.
How to Choose Oregano
Fresh oregano has bright-green, supple leaves, which should be free from damage, mold, or spotting, and stems should be firm. The robust-flavored fresh oregano used in many Italian and Greek recipes is actually called Greek oregano, but stores often stock the much milder “common” oregano. Smell or taste a leaf before buying to make sure you’re getting the correct version: Greek oregano is very aromatic and tastes peppery. Choose dried oregano for a more intense flavor than fresh. You may also see Mexican oregano (usually dried), which is unrelated (it’s a member of the lemon verbena family) and spicier than the Mediterranean herb.
How to Store Oregano
Wrap uncut stems in a damp paper towel, place inside a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Store dried oregano in an airtight container away from light and heat for up to 2 years. Faded color or dimished aroma or taste usually indicates that the herb is old and should be replaced.
How to Prepare Oregano
Just before using fresh oregano, wash the leaves and blot dry with a paper towel.
When cooking with dried oregano, avoid sprinkling it directly from its container into a hot or steaming pot. The steam can hasten the loss of the remaining flavor and aroma in the herb. Taste and smell the herb before adding it to your dish. Older herbs will have lost some flavor, so you may need to use more in the recipe.
How to Use Oregano
Use fresh or dried oregano in pasta sauces, pizza, Greek dishes, and Mexican cuisine. A pinch of oregano elevates the flavors of garlic, lemon, and tomatoes, but use it sparingly—too much can turn “bite” into bitter. To substitute dried oregano for fresh in a recipe, use ⅓ the amount called for.
Real Simple Oregano Recipes:
- Garlic and Oregano Baby Back Ribs
- Warm Garlic-Oregano Bread
- Rigatoni With Sweet Potato, Oregano, and Parmesan
- Grilled Oregano-Lemon Lamb Chops With Orzo
- Garlic and Oregano Sweet Potato Wedges
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