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02/25/2013

~ The great oregano debate: Mediterranean Oregano vs. Mexican Oregano. Is there a difference? YES!!! ~

IMG_2490"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" 

~ Don Michael Corleone.  (A quote from The Godfather III movie.)

We've been enjoying a week of Tex-Mex-themed recipes and chile pepper posts here on Kitchen Encounters.  Just as I started to write my next and last February post (about cornbread and cornbread muffins... so stay tuned), I got a second question from a regular reader, and, it was, again, so good, it too merits a post of its own, so, without further adieu:

6a0120a8551282970b0168ebf0c318970c-800wiYesterday, Liz wanted to know if there is a difference between chile powder, spelled with and "e" and chili powder, spelled with an "i". There most certainly is, and, you can read my answer, ~ Is it spelled chile or chili?  It's NOT a regional thing! ~ in Categories 13, 15 or 16, or, click on the Related Article link below.  Today, Liz wants to know:

IMG_2481Q.  Liz says and asks:  Melanie thank-you so much for my newfound understanding of chile powder and chili powder, and, for responding to my question almost immediately.  Now, I have one more spicey question!  

In all of your Tex-Mex recipes you specifically refer to Mexican oregano.  I've seen it in the spice-isle section of my grocery stores, but always assumed it was the same as "regular" or Mediterranean oregano, except imported from Mexico.  Is this true and can they be used interchangeably?  Because of your chile powder answer, I'm sort of laughing at myself and guessing the answer is going to be: "not the same", and, "do not use interchangeably"!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Liz, Mediterranean oregano and Mexican oregano, despite their sharing a common name (because they have a common base flavor that stands up well to bold cuisines), are NOT the same.  In fact they are two completely different plant species. I do not recommend that you use them interchangeably.  I do, however, recommend that if you love Tex-Mex fare, you pick up a bottle of Mexican oregano and add it to your spice rack ASAP!

IMG_2469Mediterranean oregano: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

Mexican oregano: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and grows throughout Central and South America.  It is sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano.  Mexican oregano has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

BOTH Mediterranean and Mexican oregano: come in fresh and dried form.  Always remember that fresh and dried herbs don't have the same aroma or taste, and, when preparing a recipe, use what that recipe calls for.  Also, the drying process concentrates the flavor of an herb, making the dried herb stronger in flavor.  The general rule for substitution is:

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon of dried herbs

IMG_2486Exceptions to this rule are bay leaves, cilantro and parsley, which lose flavor when dried.  In the case of these, use twice as much:  2 fresh bay leaves = 4 dried bay leaves.  Lastly, fresh herbs are usually added to the dish being prepared near the end of the cooking process (to maintain their color and flavor), while dried herbs are added to the dish at the beginning of the cooking process (giving their flavor time to infuse)!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

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