Meet Herb

Marjoram: popular all through the Western world and most commonly found in Italian, Mexican, Greek and French -- especially Provencal -- cooking, it's easily my most favourite herb -- after garlic and basil, of course! It is very similar to oregano, but has a more delicate flavour. Add it to your tomato dishes, especially sauce; it's great in bean and meat dishes; marinate vegetables in it for grilling or add it to your favourite vinaigrette. Use it in a bouquet garni or add it to favourite meat and stuffing recipes, you'll like the subtle flavouring it gives.

Marjoram is a perennial, growing into a bush about 30cm (12in) high. A well established plant could spread as much as 45cm (18in) and makes an attractive addition to a garden. It has wonderfully aromatic dark green foliage and when in bloom, produces masses of tiny pink flowers. Really a pretty plant too!

Let's see, my compendium suggests that a marjoram tisane is a great aid to digestion. Probably, this is why it works so well in all tomato based dishes; helping to offset the acidity sometimes found there.

Here's a really different side dish recipe. I'm not much for cooked carrots, but done this way, they're not half bad! I found it years ago in an old book called The Herb Bible, unfortunately, I didn't make note of the author!

Carrot and Lima Bean Crisp

This makes an excellent vegetarian main course too.
  • 1 lb. carrots, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 pound lima beans, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped marjoram
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 tbsp reserved vegetable cooking liquid
  • 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Steam the carrots and lima beans till just tender. Reserve the cooking liquid for later. Toss the vegetables in the butter and stir in the marjoram and honey, making sure to coat everything evenly. Pour into a baking dish and drizzle the reserved liquid over all.

Mix together all the crisp ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper and spread over the vegetables. Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

  • Yields: 4 servings as a main dish
  • Preparation Time: about an hour

Catalan Eggs

Sometimes, when I make these, I'll substitute jalapeno peppers for some of the sweet red peppers.
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Spanish onion cut into bits sized chunks and separated
  • two small sweet red peppers, cored, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 small zucchini in slices
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 large eggs, slightly beaten

Heat the oil in a large frying pan that has a lid. Add the onion when the oil is just to its smoking point, reduce heat and fry over medium heat for about ten minutes, until nicely softened. Add the red pepper (and jalapeno if you're using it) stirring for another seven to eight minutes then the zucchini and continue cooking for five minutes more or so. Don't let the zucchini get too well cooked, nothing worse than mushy zucchini! LOL

Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper; stir in the herbs. Cover and allow it to simmer for ten minutes.

Stir the beaten eggs into the vegetable mixture. Cook over low heat for three or four minutes until the eggs have set. Remove from heat, let stand covered five minutes and serve straight from the pan with a loaf of crusty French bread and a crisp salad.

  • Yields: 2 - 4 servings depending on appetites
  • Preparation Time: about 30 minutes

And, just because it's tomato season and you really should be enjoying them, here's my favourite summer pasta sauce, quick easy and tasty!

Roxie's Summer Sauce

I usually make this with tomatoes fresh off the vine. Since we don't have a garden ourselves, that means anyone’s garden is fair game in tomato season, so guard yours with your life! LOL

Okay, this is something I do by eye, so proportions may be off, use your judgment and experiment. It's truly the best way and the ingredients are so basic, you can't really go wrong.

  • 8 or 10 good sized, fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped roughly
  • 4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • two handfuls of fresh marjoram chopped fine
  • one handful of fresh basil, same
  • 4 or 5 fresh hot peppers, your favourite variety (I like the cherry hots for this) seeded and diced
  • salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized terra cotta sauce pan, heat the olive oil till smoky. Add the peppers and sauté till soft and slightly browned. Remove the peppers from the pan and add the garlic to the pan. Allow to sauté a few minutes then add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until almost all of the juices are gone. Add the herbs, the sautéed peppers and salt and pepper to taste.

Allow the whole to come just to the boil again and remove from heat.

Serve over a pound of rigatoni cooked al dente and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese.

  • Yields: 4 - 6 servings, if you want to share
  • Preparation Time: about half an hour

Before I leave you for another month, I wanted to mention that marjoram has long been considered the symbol of happiness and joy. So, go out there and spread some happy, happy around!