Do you remember that funky Cuban oregano plant I picked up a couple of months ago? The crazy I’m-an-herb-but-also-a-succulent plant? Well, it’s been growing like gangbusters in this New York summer of plenty of sun and lots of rain. I’ve been sort of loathe to touch it: with my black thumb, if a plant is doing well, I find it’s best to just sit back and stay out of its way. But I finally broke down, trimmed a couple of stems, slivered the leaves and tossed them into a salad, and I’m here to tell you: it was worth the wait.
Perfumed, lemony, distinctly oregano but subtly different, Cuban oregano is a fascinating beast in her own right. The flavor profile is at once familiar and exotic, distinctly present, but not overpowering. A true, “What is IN this??” ingredient if ever I’ve had one. Add in crisp Kirby cucumbers, cool fennel, mildly spicy chiles and a bright, assertive lemony dressing, and you’ve got not just a salad, but a Discussion Piece.
Do let the salad marinate a bit once you’ve dressed it; it takes a while for the oregano flavor to permeate the dish and for the flavors to blend. I also liked it better slightly chilled from the fridge than at (warmish summer afternoon) room temperature. But overall a delight, and more enjoyable and fascinating than chopping a few veg and tossing them in a bowl would seem to merit.
If you’re in the area, I found my Cuban oregano at Gossett Brother’s Nursery in South Salem. If you’re in the Tri-State area, the herb was from Gilberties, which you can find most anywhere. I’ve heard that it is pretty hard to grow, but I may try to pick up another pot or two and move them inside in the Fall. What with all the recipe dreaming now going on in my head, I have a feeling I’m going to quickly decimate my little plant! Happy weekend, all.
p.s. This is in no way an endorsement of All Things Cuban, especially this weekend. Cigars & oregano, yes. Winning football team, no. Go US!
- 4 Kirby cucumbers (or 2 large field cukes, seeded), diced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- 2 stalks fennel frond, chopped
- 2 mild fresh chiles, thinly sliced
- 1 heaping tbsp slivered fresh Cuban oregano leaves, from 2 to 3 stems
- 1 lemon
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- red chile flakes
- In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, onion, fennel & fronds, chiles and Cuban oregano.
- Zest and juice the lemon. Add the lemon juice and a healthy pinch of the zest (reserve remaining zest for another use) to a Ball jar. Add an equal amount of olive oil, then another tablespoon or two. Add a large pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a good pinch of red chile flakes. Shake vigorously, taste and adjust seasoning. Add a tiny dollop of honey if the dressing needs balancing.
- Shake the dressing one more time and drizzle over the salad. Toss well, then refrigerate for about 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Toss one more time then serve, slightly chilled.
- Obviously you don’t have to use Cuban oregano here if you can’t find it. Regular fresh oregano won’t be quite the same, but I’m sure it would be tasty.
Refrigerated for up to 2 days.