Mexican oregano (Recipe: Green chile turkey meatballs)
Every November, a guy named Mark, with three helpers backpacking scary gas-powered leaf blowers, arrives to relocate the leaves that fall from our trees and blanket the lawn.
The leaves get chopped up a bit and piled off to the edge of the woods, where, over time, they'll turn into lovely leaf mold that we mix in with our compost or use as mulch in the herb garden.
On my spice rack, I keep a little jar of chopped up leaves that look very much like the ones outside in the woods. They look the same, but they're oh-so-different.
The leaves in the jar are Mexican oregano.
Not from my yard. Not even from my herb garden. And not really oregano, either.
Mexican oregano, also called Mexican wild sage or Tex-Mex oregano, actually is a member of the lemon verbena family, not related to the more familiar Mediterranean or Greek oregano I grow in my herb garden (this year I grew Italian oregano, too). The Mexican variety is musky and sweet, with a similar lemon-licorice aroma to its Mediterranean namesake.
Native to the American Southwest and Mexico, where I've seen the fresh herb for sale in street markets all around the country, Mexican oregano is found in dried form in most other parts of the world.
It will keep in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature, or in the freezer, for six months or more. If you don't have a Latino market near you, order online from Penzeys or Mexgrocer. The Spice House sells powdered Mexican oregano, which incorporates more easily into many dishes.
Greek chile turkey meatballs
Yes, I'm on a turkey meatball kick. This version would be great in a Mexican meatball sub, wrapped in a tortilla or pita with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, hot peppers and cheese, or over Spanish rice. Makes 13 giant meatballs. Serves 4 (three meatballs per person plus one for the cook).
1-1/4 lb ground turkey (I use 93% fat-free)
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0% fat)
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 4-oz can of fire-roasted green chiles, drained
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone liner), aluminum foil or parchment paper, and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. With your hands, mix until well combined, with the breadcrumbs, chiles and yogurt evenly distributed throughout. Do not overmix.
Using an ice cream scoop with a release (called a "disher", if you buy at a restaurant supply store), form 12-13 large meatballs, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 18 minutes, until just slightly brown. Taste one to be sure they're done; the yogurt will keep the meatballs fairly moist.
You can make these ahead, and freeze them.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Curried turkey meatballs
Tex-Mex turkey lasagne
Turkey escarole soup
Turkey meatballs with pasta
Greektown turkey meatballs
Turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs