Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meet Marjoram, Oregano's Lusty Sister

I'll never forget the first time I met Marjoram, it was just about a year ago - I leaned in, caught a whiff of her gorgeous perfume and I could almost feel my dopamine drop, my pheromones release; there was no mistaking it - it was love or maybe it was simply lust.

I believe it was Mario Batali who once said that marjoram smells like a lusty woman. And who isn't captivated by a lusty woman? They're the best kind.

I don't know why but all this talk of lusty women suddenly makes me want to break into the song Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by the Looking Glass...is anyone else out there getting that vibe?

Anyway, since then, I've been using every opportunity to use marjoram any way I can. She's a sweeter, sexier version of oregano and can be used in its place in just about everything.

Here's some simple uses for fresh marjoram to get you going:

Mince a tablespoon and toss on top of your pizza in place of oregano. Beautiful on top of a frittata or baked, poached and scrambled eggs. Season any tomato-based sauce with it or finish off a platter of grilled sausages with sauteed peppers and onions with a garnish of marjoram.

Switch up your rosemary and thyme and try roasting a chicken with marjoram:

Gently loosen the skin of a 3 1/2 to 4 lb. bird. Take some peeled garlic cloves and fresh marjoram and work them underneath the skin making sure to place over the breast and thigh areas. Season with lots of salt and pepper both inside and out. Set the oven to 400 degrees, place the bird in a snug roasting pan and follow these simple instructions: roast 20 minutes breast side up, 20 minutes breast side down, 20 more minutes breast side up.* Eat.

Marjoram's great tossed in fresh summer salads - particularly a good match with fresh tomatoes, beets and corn which are at their seasonal peaks right now.

Here's a simple salad to throw together after your visit to the farmers'market from Epicurious. Perfect for a quick lunch:

toss together in large bowl:

4 ears sweet corn cut off the cobb
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped
4 ounces crumbled sheep feta

whisk together and toss with salad:

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

* rule of thumb instruction by Alice Waters from The Art of Simple Food