Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB #109) – Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
(click on image for larger view and more photos)
Last month, my sister served stuffed mushrooms as a starter for her spectacular and wonderful Thanksgiving feast. Almost as soon as we got home, I emailed my sister to ask for her stuffed mushroom recipe. For her mushrooms, my sister said she had sort of winged it. Here is what she wrote that she had used
- chopped mushroom stems plus a couple of mushrooms that I mangled trying to get the stems off
- Green onion
- Shallot (the small round purplish things – why do we also use that word for the things that are almost like green onions?)
- Chili flakes
- Did I put a tiny bit of finely chopped bacon too? I can’t remember, but I would have if I’d thought of it!
- Bread crumbs
- Parmesan and maybe a bit of cheddar
- Salt and pepper
- Herbs – shredded basil, maybe some parsley
Since Thanksgiving, I have been meaning to make stuffed mushrooms. Finally, last night, I did it. And they are delicious!! Many thanks, B!!
I remember on Thanksgiving Day remarking on the taste of the basil; it was really outstanding. And I was sorry that we didn’t have a lot of basil on hand. The colder nights have pretty much decimated any of the basil plants still left in our garden. Storebought basil is okay but it’s so faded in comparison to garden basil!
So I knew I’d have to compensate somehow. Happily, we have lots of oregano still growing. I harvested the last few basil leaves (half of them already burned and black from being too cold) and a couple of stalks of oregano leaves.
As I was chopping onions, I thought about how good the Squash and Sage Lasagne made with butternut squash had been. And there was still some of that squash left over in the fridge. I decided a little of that would be a perfect addition. And as I got it and the cheeses out of the fridge, our jar of oven-dried tomatoes beckoned to me, so I grabbed a couple of them too.
And happily set about chopping, grating, sauteeing, stuffing, baking… and then serving them sizzling and fragrant as the starter to yet another feast.
And even though our stuffed mushrooms were not exactly the same as my sister’s stuffed mushrooms, they were awfully good. I love that it’s such a versatile recipe!
I thought that Americans might like to wow their family and friends by replicating(ish) stuffed mushrooms for their Thanksgiving dinners coming up next week. Stuffed mushrooms are dead easy to make, and even better, they can be prepared in advance. Here’s what I did:
based on my sister’s recipe for stuffed mushrooms
(no measurements – use what you think is right)
edit 18 November 2007: corrections surrounded with *s
- button mushrooms
- olive oil
- onion, chopped finely
- chili flakes
- garlic, chopped finely
- fresh herbs – julienned oregano and basil
- dried tarragon
- dried bread crumbs
- grainy mustard
- butternut squash, cooked
- seasalt and pepper
- oven-dried tomatoes, chopped
- parmesan and swiss cheeses, grated
- Carefully remove the stems from the mushrooms. Set the mushroom caps aside. *Chop the stems up*.
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion, *mushroom stems* and chili flakes and fry til the onion is soft. Add the garlic, fresh and dried herbs and fry til the onions are beginning to be tinged with gold.
- Stir in bread crumbs and mustard and continue to fry til golden.
- Remove from heat and add the onion mixture to the squash. Stir in oven-dried tomatoes, seasalt and pepper.
- Stir most of the cheese into the onion/squash mixture. Reserve some parmesan.
- Spoon the mixture into the cavities of the mushrooms and place them on a rack in a baking tray. Sprinkle grated parmesan over top of each stuffed mushroom. (There may be some filling left over. Use it to spread on toast or as a garnish for a pasta dish.)
- Bake at about 325F for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are sizzling.
I suspect that fresh thyme would be great too. But do make sure you include at least some fresh basil if you can get hold of it. It really takes the mushrooms up one level.
Please note that all but the last step can be done in advance.
Serve the stuffed mushrooms hot. Remember to garnish the serving plate with a few fresh herbs. Although… they still look awfully good even without the touch of green!
Have I mentioned that I adore Butternut squash? It is great on its own but it’s also good to use as a flavouring. It’s amazing how it brightens the dish, making it rich, without at all masking the other ingredients.
Duh!!! I just realized that I could have used one of our basil pesto cubes from the freezer. Silly me!! Next time!
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
In this part of Ontario near the Great Lakes, oregano is a robust and prolific plant that absolutely thrives on neglect. It prefers plenty of sun and plain soil. The flavour is more intense if the soil is leaner.
Some time ago, when I was first planting our herb garden and we still had some sun in our small back garden, I planted “authentic” Greek oregano (purchased at some expense from Richters), genovese basil and cherry tomatoes. About half way through the summer, the cherry tomatoes and oregano were choking out the basil. Thinking about pesto, I ripped the tomatoes and oregano out in rage. I tossed the two giant cherry tomato plant into the composter – causing many renogade cherry tomato plants the next year ALL over the garden; one climbed the next door neighbours’ cedar tree, decorating it festively with beautiful out-of-reach cherry tomatoes (but that’s another story). I stuck the oregano into a tiny patch of earth beside the lane behind the garage. It absolutely thrives there. I never water it or amend the soil. It gets full sun and mocks us year after year as it flowers. We daren’t eat any of it because of all the car exhaust and any other unsavoury things that might contaminate it in the back lane.
But last year, I decided to plant oregano again. This time I put it into a pot all by itself. Once again it thrived on neglect. And it came back this year!! And thrived even more. In spite of the fact that it doesn’t really get the amount of sun it really should have. It tastes wonderful though. Just as oregano should. It’s terrific in stuffed mushrooms as well as in black bean stew or on pizza.
(The unharvested garage oregano is still as lush as ever. I have not, nor am I likely to, ever planted cherry tomatoes again.)
In the late fall, the oregano plant can be trimmed. Wash the stalks (let the leaves stay where they are) and hang the oregano in bunches upside down in a darkish area of the kitchen to dry. Over the winter, take pieces of it and crush them between your hands to remove the stalks. It will smell wonderfully of oregano! Not quite as good as fresh but darn close….
Please read more about oregano:
- wikipedia – oregano
- Plants For a Future – Origanum vulgare
- Gernot Katzer’s Spice pages – oregano
- The Cook’s Thesaurus – oregano
This week Kalyn’s (Kalyn’s Kitchen) wonderful weekly event, WHB is being hosted by Vanessa (What Geeks Eat…).
For more details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:
- Kalyn’s Kitchen – WHB rules
- Kalyn’s Kitchen – Who’s Hosting WHB?
- Kalyn’s Kitchen – WHB Recap Archives
edit 20 November 2007: The WHB#109 recap has been posted. Take a look at all the fabulous entries!