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May 20, 2010

Oregano (Recipe: grilled lamb, souvlaki style) {gluten-free}

Grilled lamb, souvlaki style. 

Last Spring I planted two types of oregano, Greek and Italian, in my herb garden.

One lived through the winter. One didn't.

Before I tell you which one survived, I want to be clear that this is not a political commentary, nor is it a reflection on which cuisine reigns supreme.

It's not even a matter of taste, as both have strong, unique flavor. (Use any type of fresh oregano sparingly; it's surprisingly potent.)

No, it's just Mother Nature, or the quirks of my herb garden, that enabled the Italian oregano to survive where the Greek oregano could not.

That's the great thing about gardening, though; there's always next year! I'm off to the herbary now for another Greek oregano plant.

What is oregano?
Origanum vulgare, a member of the mint family, native to the Mediterranean region. Also known as wild marjoram, it's a perennial that grows up to two feet tall; the tiny leaves are peppery and strong-flavored.

How/where to store:
Dried, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, away from heat, for up to 1 year, or in the freezer for up to 2 years. Buy leaves, rather than ground.

More facts about oregano, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Oregano (Recipe: posole)

Grilled lamb

 Grilled lamb, souvlaki style

This recipe combines inspiration from many sources, including Barefoot Contessa and souvlaki recipes from two food blogs, Kalofagas and Kalyn's Kitchen. My local market sells organic boneless leg of lamb. I leave it whole, for grilling, but you can also cut it into cubes and cook on skewers, more in the souvlaki tradition. Leftovers are great for sandwiches. Serves 8-10.

Ingredients

2-1/2 lbs boneless leg of lamb
2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp Greek seasoning (I use Greektown Billygoat Seasoning from The Spice House)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Remove the lamb from its packaging, and dry with paper towels. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir to incorporate. Add the lamb to the bowl, and with your hands, massage the marinade into the meat. Place the meat and marinade into a ziploc bag. Press out the air, seal the bag, and flatten the meat. Place on a plate or tray, and refrigerate for 8-24 hours, or longer.

When you are ready to cook, take the meat out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.

Heat the grill on high heat. When the grill is ready, remove the lamb from the bag, and wipe off excess marinade. Run a few metal skewers through it, if desired (I never do), and place on the grill. Cook for 10 minutes, flip onto the other side, and cook an additional 8 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the grill and take its temperature with an instant-read thermometer; when the temperature registers 125F, remove the meat from the grill. Cover lightly with foil. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing. The thicker parts will be rare; the thinner parts will be more well done. Slice and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

"Poor little eggplants"
Potato and swordfish tortino
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Lentils and brown rice
Chicken and shrimp jambalaya

Other recipes that use oregano:
Greek oregano ice cream, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Cucumber and tomato salad with marinated garbanzo beans, feta and herbs, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Small stuffed zucchinis with black rice and oregano, from La Tartine Gourmande
Calamari pizza with goat cheese and oregano, from Stephencooks
Tomato, feta and oregano panini, from Panini Happy

Comments

i love lamb and we've been eating it a lot lately! lydia this looks sensationally good and i think i'll be trying this on the grill!

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!!!! Are you SURE it isn't growing back? My Greek oregano tricked me...not once, but TWICE! 2 years in a row I thought it was gone for good, and two times it returned. I just noticed it starting to poke up from its pot yesterday, so there is still hope!

It really is amazing how strong fresh from the garden (not the store) oregano can be!

Lydia, first off..."souvlaki" comes from the word "souvla" - to skewer. Was anything skewered here?

Love these flavours (of course) and I would recommend a bone-in cut for some some added juicyness.

As for oregano, I have the Greek variety in the garden and it's perennial, even lasts through a Canadian winter!

Hmmm, I had an oregano plant also that did not come back this year. But I don't recall which variety. But it lost its slotting to leeks. Oh well. The lamb looks delicious and seems to work with dried oregano equally well! I wonder if I could use a combo of dried oregano and fresh mint?

Humm, dried oregano and fresh mint sounds good! Love this recipe, Lydia. Now I wish I did not live in the city w/o a grill! On the other hand, the farmer's markets are now open and fresh local baby arugula (rocket) is available. All is not lost!

That's funny because my Greek oregano came back like gangbusters, but my Italian oregano didn't survive this year (along with a lot of my other herbs, and we didn't even have a very cold winter.)

This sounds great; would love to have it for dinner. I've been liking that Greektown Billygoat Seasoning too!

I have both but only in dried form Lydia.

Yum. You know, I never think to plant oregano because I seldom use it. Five types of basil, sure, but not oregano.

I noticed all the varieties of oregano at the nursery last week and wondered how the taste profile varies. I will definitely grow Greek this summer in hopes that it survives the cold winter of Boise (if it survived Canada, I may be in luck!).

Oh, I love how easy to make this seems.

I hope your new herb plant makes it this time. ;-)

Paz

I love the disclosure that it is not a political statement, hehe! Have you tried the Mexican oregano? I don't know how it would compare to the other two, but since I love oregano, i can use any kind. That lamb looks amazingly delicious. It's making me hungry!

Mexican oregano is an entirely different plant species than Mediterranean varieties. The Latin is Lippia graveolens (Verbenaceae) and is related to lemon verbena. It has a similar but stronger flavor to Mediterranean strains. I live in Arizona so I made it my business to find out.

Meeta, you'll love this. It's such a versatile flavoring that goes with any side dishes.

Erin, I'm absolutely sure. But I'm not defeated. Another plant will go in this week.

Peter, you'll see in the recipe that skewering is an option, but that's why I call this "souvlaki style" -- the same seasonings, but cooked slightly differently. I know it's not authentic Greek this way, but it is delicious.

Julia, having just seen your garden, I have to suggest maybe, just maybe, taking out one of your crazy huge sage plants and putting in oregano! And why not use mint? It's delicious with lamb, and oregano is from the mint family.

Candy, you'll have to come down to Rhode Island and we can grill some lamb here.

Kalyn, I've reordered the Billygoat seasoning several times since we first bought it at The Spice House. It's really delicious with this lamb.

Valli, the dried oregano will work well in this marinade, too.

Theminx, I admit that I often plant multiple varieties of basil (doesn't everyone?!), but last summer I found both oregano plants at my local garden center and thought it would be fun to grow both and compare the flavor.

Melinda, good luck with oregano. I'm certainly going to try planting the Greek oregano again.

Paz, keep your fingers crossed!

Ben, I always have Mexican oregano in my pantry (in dried form), but I've never tried to grow it here in Rhode Island. I don't think we have enough sun and warmth. I love to use it in my cooking, especially with beans.

Janet, you're absolutely right. I do love it, but never have tried to grow it. You're so lucky that it grows well where you are.

ahhh oregano...an Italian once gave me a recipe for simplicity .... marinade overnight tender cuts of beef or lamb cubes in TONS of Greek oregano and some olive oil with salt and pepper. Skewer and grill to medium.
(add a little red wine vinegar if using a less-tender cut)
delicious!
(but I am going to try the recipe above too!)

I have never eaten lamb in this style, but it sure looks delicious. I do however used oregano when I cook lamb it gives it an awesome taste.

Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Grilled lamb is so tasty. Thank you for sharing this. I hope your new Greek oregano plant makes it this time.

Carol, that does sound delicious!

Mari, I love oregano with lamb rather than rosemary, which isn't my favorite herb. It's a great way to cook lamb on the grill.

Kait, I hope so too. Please think good thoughts for my Greek oregano.

This makes Greek look so easy - never though of this on the grill!

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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