Friday, March 6, 2009

Spaghetti. With Lots of Oregano.

From one of my favorite movies as a teenager, "Heathers" 1988 with Winona Ryder & Christian Slater . . . .
Heather Chandler
: Is this turnout weak or what? I had at least 70 more people at my funeral.
Veronica Sawyer: Heather?
Heather Chandler: God, Veronica. My afterlife is so boring. I have to sing Kumbaya one more time...
Veronica Sawyer: What are you doing here?
Heather Chandler: I made your favorite. Spaghetti. With lots of oregano. Dinner!
Veronica Sawyer: [wakes up from dream]

Ah, yes, spaghetti with lots of oregano is one of my favorites, too. I figured it was time to make my latest interpretation this famed dish. Simple and rustic, yet done with a careful hand. I made this for lunch, would be just as satisfying for dinner, with some of my favorite ingredients. Altogether, this dish took me about 15 minutes to make. It is just a matter of multitasking. First start the boiling water for the Le Veneziane Corn Fettucce. Then in a small saute pan, heat some olive oil with minced garlic and finely sliced shiitake mushrooms. Allow that to cook down a couple of minutes on medium heat, adding in some salt, white & black pepper. Threw in a handful of peas and cooked for a couple of more minutes. Cook the pasta to a tender al dente, strain, and toss with the sauteed garlic, mushrooms, and peas. Add in lots of good quality Greek oregano. My favorite oregano hails from Limnos, which is the most pungent. In another saute pan, fry an egg over medium and top the pasta with it. Sprinkle on a little Cretan oregano, lighter and slightly lemon, on top of the egg. No cheese. It is not needed in this dish; not even a sprinkling of Parmesan. Once the egg's yolk is cut, it adds this wonderful creamy richness to the dish that is divine. This dish looks so simple and that is the beauty in it with the flavors and textures clean and simple, complimenting each other with ease, but have enough contrast for the flavors and textures to pop.

Oregano is one of my favorite herbs. I love the super intense aromatic character. I bring back half a kilogram every time I go to Greece. That is over one pound, which is enough to hold me over until next trip there. Usually, dried herbs lose their flavor with the 90% moisture content the their delicate volatile flavor compounds. Oregano is the exception to this rule, since it is native to hot, arid areas and the aromatic flavor compound stay in drying conditions (McGee). The plant originates from the Mediterranean region, where its pungency is in direct proportion with its quota of the sun. The Greeks and Romans were responsible for the spread of this plant across Europe, where it became known as Marjoram. The New Englanders took it to North America, where there arose a further confusion of nomenclature. Until the 1940’s, common marjoram was called wild marjoram in America, but is now know as oregano. In certain parts of Mexico and the southern states of the USA, oregano is, confusing, the colloquial name for a totally unrelated plant, a type of verbena, that has a similar flavor (McVicar).

The penetrating quality of oregano comes from the phenolic compound carvacrol. The Greek oreganos are typically rich in carvacrol, while milder Italian, Turkish, and Spanish oreganos contain more thyme-like thymol and fresh, floral, and woody terpenes (McGee). Carvacrol, or cymophenol, is a monoterpenoid phenol. It has a characteristic pungent, warm odor of oregano and a pizza-like taste. Its low toxicity together with its pleasant taste and smell suggests its use as a food additive to prevent bacterial contamination (Wikipedia). One very important physical property of carvacrol to point out is the very high boiling point of 237oC/459oF, meaning that the wonderful flavor of oregano can withstand a great deal of heat before volatilizing. This makes it perfect for an oven-fired pizzas and roasts up to 450oF for a long time and not lose its flavor.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

5 comments:

Carmela said...

Welcome to foodie blogroll. This pasta looks so auesome. I am going to try making it. Did you know that oregano is used mostly in southern Italy, the northern Italian cooks seldom use it prefering sweet basil.

Buon appetito,

Carmela

Jenny said...

Thanks for becoming a follower of my blog, I found yours today from the blogroll and I love it. I love the science of food and would love to go to culinary school! I can't wait to read more!

Sophie said...

MMMMMMMMM..this dish is something for me!!! I am can not eat lactose!! I am an lactose - intolerant person! Do you have a milk allergy? Galactose intolerant or something else?
I cook & bake lactose free! As subsstitutes I use lactose fee semi skimmed milk & butter.! I use soy cream instead of real cream, it is more healthy & much lighter than real cram.
I just discovered your foodblog & I love it!!!
Many greetings from Brussels, Belgium!!!

Sophie said...

I just love this dish,....mmmmmmmm!!! Are you having a milk allergy or an galactose allergy or are you lactose intolerant? I am lactose intolerant in high dosises! I substitute cream, butter & milk by using lactose free butter & milk. I use soy cream instead. It is much healthier & lighter!!

jenncuisine said...

I just found your blog and I love it! I am a chemist myself and mostly gluten free (my husband has to be). I totally think chemistry and cooking goes together.....I'm adding you to my reader!