-The Underappreciated Herb
By Liz Tarpy

In the culinary world, some of us tend to reach for the same everyday herbs, like basil or parsley, without much thought. They are predictable, comforting and familiar – we know how to cook with them, what the flavor will taste like, and how they complement meats or vegetables. While it's good to have that knowledge in your culinary repertoire, a great chef will experiment with different ingredients and break away from the norm. [more]


Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli of Butter Restaurant
Braised Short Ribs with Marjoram and Blue Cheese

Chef Sergio Sigala of Casa Tua
Grilled French Turbot with Fennel, Blood Oranges, Nicoise Olive Salad, and Fresh Marjoram

Chef Jerry Traunfeld of The Herbfarm
Marjoram Corn Bread

Marjoram is a great example. Originating in the hot climates of North Africa, Turkey and southwest Asia, sweet marjoram is now also cultivated in the Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe. It belongs to the mint family with other more common herbs – basil, mint, oregano and sage. What is interesting is that all marjorams are oreganos, but not all oreganos are marjorams. This is perhaps why some people view the two herbs as interchangeable. However, each imparts a distinctive flavor to foods.

The grassy, lemony taste of fresh marjoram goes well with delicate fish, white bean salads, fresh vegetables and tomato sauce. Use it to make pesto, add to a bouquet garni or mix in a compound butter. Let marjoram breathe new life into your standard roasted chicken and baby potatoes.

Although fresh herbs are given top billing on many menus, dried herbs have their place, too. Marjoram dries particularly well, keeping its fragrance better than many other herbs. Perhaps, that's why it's favored for hearty meals like venison ragout or stew with cabbage and potatoes. Dried marjoram is also used as a main ingredient in the Jordanian seasoning blend zahtar and in the German dried sausage herb called Wurstkraut.

The more you play around with marjoram, the more it will begin to haunt your taste buds and bug you to find new ways to use it.

More Marjoram Recipes on StarChefs…
  • Rick Bayless’s Recipe for Grilled Quail in Red Onion Escabeche
  • Dante Boccuzzi's Recipe for Shallot Crusted Veal Loin, Parmesan Flan, and Braised Oregon Morels
  • Roberto Donna's Recipe for Cisra (Chick Pea Soup with Sweet Garlic Toasted Bread)
  • Charlie Palmer's Recipe for Dried Fruit and Nut Bread Stuffing
  • Mario Batali's Recipe for Grilled Prawns with White Beans, Rosemary, Māche and Mint Oil
  • Related Links:
  • Forum: Oregano vs. Marjoram: Which one do you prefer?

  •    Published: February 2005