At this time of year, it inevitably happens: The attack of the oregano.
What started as a teeny-tiny seedling planted years ago has taken on a life of its own — growing with abandon into a dense bush that would over take everything else in my small backyard if I let it.
Sure, I’ve killed hardy cactus, gone through turmoil trying to grow healthy basil at times, and fretted over finicky tomato plants. But my oregano? It’s survived freak frosts, spells without regular watering, and downright neglect. I half think it secretly considers every other plant in my yard a wuss. After all, Mr. Oregano is a survivor. He’s the king of this domain, for sure.
So, at this time of year especially, I find myself adding fresh oregano leaves to pastas, vegetable soups, tabbouleh, roasted chicken, and blistered pizzas. But no matter how much I use, there’s always more oregano where that came from, if you know what I mean.
As a result, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use it. That’s why when a review copy of “Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook” (Weldon Owen) landed in my mailbox, I scoured the 1,000 recipes compiled by the editors of Saveur only find myself most captivated by one for “Oregano Vinaigrette.”
Yes, I pushed aside recipes for “Amazing Five-Hour Duck” and “Croatian Walnut-Swirl Bread” in favor of this simple salad dressing that uses a quarter cup of fresh oregano leaves.
It’s an assertive vinaigrette — just the kind I like — made with anchovy, plenty of garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, chile flakes and preserved lemon.
The editors of Saveur write in the book that they like to serve the dressing with greens like spinach or kale. I spooned it liberally over a simple mix of endive leaves and chunky English cucumber slices. I can imagine using it on a riff of salad Nicoise, too, with boiled potatoes, green beans and tinned tuna.
Briny, sharp, resiny and salty, it’s a dressing that will punch up anything. I plan to make it again and again because it’s delicious. And because, well, I do have a certain issue with oregano.
(Makes 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 oil-packed anchovy filet, drained
Kosher salt and freshly black pepper to taste
Rind of 1/2 preserved lemon, roughly chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the chile flakes, garlic, anchovy, and a pinch of salt in a mortar and mash with the pestle until ingredients are finely ground. Add the lemon and oregano, and continue mashing until the oregano has broken down into tiny pieces. (Alternately, put the garlic, anchovy, salt, lemon, and oregano on a cutting board, finely chop with a large knife, and transfer to a bowl; stir in chile flakes.)
Add vinegar, whisk in oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let vinaigrette sit for at least 30 minutes. Dressing will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Cook’s Note: To make this recipe vegetarian or vegan, omit the anchovy and replace with 1 tablepoon black olive tapenade.
From “Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook” by the Editors of Saveur