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what you need to know

Root Source: Marjoram

 


what you should know


Marjoram is oregano's calmer, sweeter fraternal twin. Oregano = zesty + peppery + lemony. Marjoram = delicate + floral + round. The two are often used interchangeably, but if you get up in their mix you'll see some big differences.

 

the tear-smell test Get a fresh sprig of marjoram and a fresh sprig of oregano. Tear an oregano leaf in half. Hold it up to your nose. Smell that piney resin? That jolt? It's sharp, isn't it? Almost one note.

 

Okay, wait a few minutes, then do the same thing with the marjoram. Smell the complexity? The spice is still there but it's perfumed, heady. Almost soapy. (If you use too much of it, that soapiness can take over a soup or sauce.)

 

the short and long of it You hear conflicting views about the best use for marjoram. First, you hear it's a great sauce and stewing herb that lends some woodsiness to long-cooked dishes. Then, you hear that marjoram should be added at the end of cooking so that you don't lose its delicate flavor.

 

We're marjoram centrists. When we're roasting, grilling or broiling something, we like a lot of marjoram and we like it on its own. The high heat tames that soapiness, leaving a delicate floral taste to contrast the meat. In sauces, salads, and dressings, where the marjoram's more potent, we like to use it sparingly and we taste as we go.


what you need

 

Claudia Roden was born in Egypt, where most of the cultivated marjoram in the world comes from. She's written many great books on the food of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Right now, we're into her new Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon.

 

Can you survive without a Zyliss herb mill? Yes. Do you feel a little dignified when you use one? Yes. Is it up to you to decide if that kind of dignity is worth $12? Yes.

 

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs versus Herbs and Spices: The Cook's Reference. In a steel cage match between the two, we're not sure who would come out on top. They're equally good.

 

 

 

what you do

 

Next time you're feeling like a quesadilla, stow the cilantro and try mixing marjoram and coriander with Monterey Jack. Against the cheese's gooey richness, the marjoram brings in a little lemon that the coriander picks up on and rounds out as orange. It's a match made in cielo.

 

We liked a toned-down version of moros y cristianos, the famous Cuban dish of black beans and rice. Though usually you'd use dried oregano, we think that fresh marjoram gives it more complexity.

 

Marjoram is underused as a flavoring for root vegetables. With carrots and Brussels sprouts roasted at high heat, marjoram highlights the sweet and woodsy qualities of the vegetables.

 

But if you really want to talk about marjoram and roasting, you've got to talk about lamb. To see what the herb's all about, try this seared and roasted rack of lamb inspired by one of Brys' favorite cooking shows, Take Home Chef.

 

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