Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #152

Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Recipe, Spotlight on Garlic, Testing Meat for Doneness, Mindfulness Can Help You Stick with a Special Diet and Even Sleeping is Better for You than Sitting

Looking for a festive holiday entrée? My Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin fits the bill for any celebration. Its two-step cooking method is virtually foolproof—it keeps the tender in tenderloin! I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek at my latest e-book, Savor the Season: Winter 2024, a collection of recipes featuring healthy and hearty seasonal dishes. Also in this edition of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter is information on how to use mindfulness to stick to a specialized diet and why even sleep is better for you than sitting.

Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

  • Garlic and pepper crusted beef tenderloin Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

    There’s nothing more celebratory than a beef tenderloin, and because it takes on the intense flavors in the crust, there’s no need for further embellishment. The center cut is the most choice, tender, and lean part of the tenderloin. 


    • 8 cloves garlic, peeled 
    • 2 tablespoons coarse salt 
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for searing 
    • 1 tablespoon freshly and coarsely cracked black peppercorns
    • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
    • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary needles from a 3- or 4-inch sprig 
    • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
    • One 3-pound center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed as needed


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 450ºF. In a small food processor, process the garlic and salt until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary, and process until the herbs are evenly chopped. Stir in the mustard and set aside.

    Step 2

    Heat a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. When hot, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the beef, searing it on all sides until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, making quarter turns with tongs. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let cool slightly.

    Step 3

    Coat the meat evenly on all sides with the reserved herb mixture. Transfer the tenderloin to a meat rack set in a roasting pan. Roast the tenderloin until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on its thickness). Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to prevent the juices from running out. 

    Yields 8 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Garlic

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight


Beyond adding wonderful flavor, garlic contains a powerful compound called allicin, released soon after the cloves are crushed or chopped—after you do your prep, wait 10 minutes before using the garlic to allow the allicin to develop. When I buy garlic, I always buy organic, and I always turn over the head to make sure there’s still some of the root network, a sign that it’s American grown. Beware of Chinese imports, bleached in chlorine to artificially enhance their appearance with a concave area on the bottom where the roots used to be. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Testing meat for doneness

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Testing Meat for Doneness

No matter what your preference for doneness, test with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat. Rare is 120º to 130ºF; medium rare, 130º to 135ºF; medium, 135º to 145ºF; medium well, 145º to 155ºF; and well, 165ºF. Keep in mind that when you take a roast out of the oven, it will continue to cook and can go up by another 5 degrees, so plan accordingly. 

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Mindfulness can Help You Stick with a Special Diet 

A Brown Universitystudy, published in JAMA Network Open, found that participants in an eight-week mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program improved health behaviors that lower blood pressure. “Participants in the program showed significant improvement in adherence to a heart-healthy diet, which is one of the biggest drivers of blood pressure, as well as significant improvements in self-awareness, which appears to influence healthy eating habits,” said lead study author Eric B. Loucks, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, epidemiology, and behavioral and social sciences, as well as director of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.

Dr. Loucks said the study helps explain the mechanism by which a customized mindfulness training program adapted toward improving diet can affect blood pressure. “Improvements in our self-awareness, of how different foods make us feel, of how our body feels in general, as well as our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around eating healthy as well as unhealthy food, can influence people’s dietary choices,” he said.

High blood pressure, a major cause of cardiovascular disease, is the single most important risk factor for early death worldwide, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization, leading to an estimated 10.8 million avoidable deaths every year. The important thing to note about those avoidable deaths, Dr. Loucks said, is that there is ample research supporting effective strategies to control and prevent hypertension. “Almost everyone has the power to control blood pressure through changes in diet and physical activity, adherence to antihypertensive medications, minimizing alcohol intake, and monitoring stress reactivity,” he said.

The mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program used in the study, which Dr. Loucks developed in 2014, trains participants in skills such as meditation, yoga, self-awareness, attention control, and emotion regulation. What makes the program unique, he said, is that participants learn how to direct those skills toward behaviors known to lower blood pressure. The researchers focused on participant adherence to the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) program, a balanced eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy intended to create a heart-healthy eating style for life. Despite its effectiveness, adherence to the DASH diet is typically low.

After six months, the mindfulness group showed a 0.34-point improvement in the DASH diet score. Loucks explained that this effect can be interpreted as a participant shifting from a vegetable intake approaching recommended levels (2-3 servings) to an intake at recommended levels (at least 4 servings), or making similar shifts across another component of the DASH score. The control group showed a -0.04-point change in the DASH diet score.

The trial results offer evidence that an adapted mindfulness training program for participants with high blood pressure that targets diet and self-awareness significantly improves both. “The program gives participants the tools to make heart-healthy diet changes that can lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Loucks said.

Fitness Flash

Even sleeping is better for you than sitting!

A new study, published in the European Heart Journal, is the first to assess how different movement patterns throughout the 24-hour day are linked to heart health. It is the first evidence to emerge from the international Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting and Sleep (ProPASS) consortium.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) in the UK analyzed data from six studies involving 15,246 people from five countries, each of whom used a wearable device on their thigh to measure their activity and had their heart health measured. The scientists identified a hierarchy of behaviors that make up a typical 24-hour day, with time spent doing moderate-vigorous activity providing the most benefit to heart health, followed by light activity, standing, and sleeping, compared with the adverse impact of being sedentary.

The team modeled what would happen if someone changed various amounts of one behavior for another each day for a week in order to estimate the effect on heart health for each scenario. When replacing sedentary behavior, as little as five minutes of moderate-vigorous activity had a noticeable effect on heart health.

First author of the study Joanna Blodgett, PhD, of the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, Division of Surgery and Interventional Sciences at UCL, said, “The big takeaway from our research is that while small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters. The most beneficial change we observed was replacing sitting with moderate-to-vigorous activity, which could be a run, a brisk walk, or stair climbing—basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”

The research found that, although time spent doing vigorous activity was the quickest way to improve heart health, there are ways to benefit no matter what your abilities—it’s just that the lower the intensity of the activity, the longer the time needed to start having a tangible benefit. Using a standing desk for a few hours a day instead of a sitting desk, for example, is a change over a relatively large amount of time but is also one that could be integrated into a working routine fairly easily, as it does not require any time commitment. Those who were least active were also found to benefit the most from changing from sedentary behaviors to more active ones.

James Leiper, MD, PhD, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, the organization supporting the research, said, “We already know that exercise can have real benefits for your cardiovascular health, and this encouraging research shows that small adjustments to your daily routine could lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. This study shows that replacing even a few minutes of sitting with a few minutes of moderate activity can improve your BMI, cholesterol, and waist size, and have many more physical benefits. 

“Getting active isn’t always easy, and it’s important to make changes that you can stick to in the long term and that you enjoy—anything that gets your heart rate up can help. Incorporating ‘activity snacks’ such as walking while taking phone calls or setting an alarm to get up and do some star jumps every hour is a great way to start building activity into your day, to get you in the habit of living a healthy, active lifestyle,” Dr. Leiper continued.

Though the findings cannot infer causality between movement behaviors and cardiovascular outcomes, they contribute to a growing body of evidence linking moderate to vigorous physical activity over 24 hours with improved body fat metrics. Further long-term studies will be crucial to better understanding the associations between movement and cardiovascular outcomes.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #151

Flatbreads Recipe with Quick Tips and Loads of Toppings, For Your Best Health: The Mediterranean Lifestyle Goes Global

Some of the times I treasure most on my travels for the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club are festive meals around a large table filled with friends. Yes, the food is magnificent because it’s most often locally sourced and prepared with love, whether at an olive grower’s farm or a neighborhood ristorante, but there’s more. It’s the convivial atmosphere that sticks with me as much as the first taste of a harvest’s olive oil—sharing time with people who have become my friends over the years. 

Just how important all these components are to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet is evident in a new study I’m sharing with you here. What makes this research different from many others on the health benefits of olive oil and following this diet is that its participants live in the UK, not one of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It shows that you can “export” this way of life and enjoy a longer life! Just how versatile is the Mediterranean diet? You can customize the following recipe in dozens if not hundreds of ways—and I’m starting you off with 10 delicious combinations! 

Flatbreads Your Way

  • Flatbread Margherita Flatbreads Your Way

    What makes a flatbread different than a pizza? Traditional flatbread dough doesn’t require yeast, so the prep time is faster than that of the yeasted dough for pizza. My approach takes the best of both worlds by using freshly prepared pizza dough, available at most supermarkets, and shaping it into two thin rectangles—flatbreads are often just a 1/4-inch thick. After a 5-minute pre-bake, it’s up to you to customize the toppings to your liking.

    Quick Tips:

    Have your dough at room temperature for faster and more even crisping in the oven.

    Be sure any raw meat, such as sausage or steak, is fully cooked separately—the time in the oven won’t be enough to cook it thoroughly.

    For a simple sauce, use 1/3 cup of crushed San Marzano tomatoes mixed with 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano per flatbread.

    Charcuterie board favorites as well as ingredients from your favorite salads, such as Salade Nicoise, Greek Salad, and Turkish Shepherd’s Salad, all taste great on baked flatbreads.


    • 1 pound store-bought pizza dough, white or whole wheat, at room temperature (multiply as needed for additional servings)
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Sea salt
    • Your choice of toppings…


    • Classic Margherita—crushed tomatoes, sea salt, basil, and mozzarella slices
    • New Caprese—pesto, burrata slices, cherry tomato halves, and balsamic vinegar; finish with basil after baking
    • White—ricotta, mozzarella, and fontina; finish with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano after baking
    • Tomato sauce, sautéed sausage chunks, steamed broccoli florets, and smoked mozzarella slices
    • Mushrooms, caramelized onions, and shredded fontina
    • Aioli, sliced steak, gorgonzola, and pine nuts; finish with balsamic vinegar after baking
    • Prosciutto, slices of goat cheese and figs, roasted squash or beet cubes, and hazelnuts
    • Skyr or sour cream, smoked fish, capers, and red onion rings; finish with fresh dill after baking
    • Tiny clams (canned), garlic, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and crushed red pepper flakes
    • Salami or pepperoni slices, cherry tomato halves, quartered artichoke hearts, and dried oregano


    Step 1

    Note: The dough can be fully baked for 10-15 minutes, if you want to top it with ingredients that don’t need cooking, or pre-baked, as described below, to get it crusty before you layer on fixings such as cheese to be melted. After baking, sprinkle on delicate ingredients that would quickly burn to a crisp in a 450°F or higher oven, such as arugula, cheese shavings, or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar along with more olive oil.

    Step 2

    Heat your oven (not the broiler) to its highest setting, usually between 450°F and 500°F. Prepare a rimmed sheet pan by coating it with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.

    Step 3

    Cut your dough in half and shape into rectangles with your fingers or a rolling pin. Use your knuckles to make a dimple pattern across the dough and gently brush the surface with more oil; sprinkle lightly with the salt. 

    Step 4

    Bake for about 5-8 minutes or until firm and light brown. Remove from the oven and top as desired. If using one of the above combinations, add everything except any finishing ingredient, in the order given. 

    Step 5

    Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese has fully melted. Top with any finishes and another drizzle of olive oil, and serve.

    Yields 2 servings

Best Health: The Mediterranean Lifestyle Goes Global

For Your Best Health

The Mediterranean Lifestyle Goes Global

The Study: “Association of a Mediterranean Lifestyle With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Study from the UK Biobank,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2023.

The objective: To examine the association between the Mediterranean lifestyle and all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in a British population.

How the study was done: The researchers from La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed the habits of 110,799 members of the UK Biobank Cohort, a population-based study across England, Wales, and Scotland, using the Mediterranean Lifestyle (MEDLIFE) index, which is derived from a lifestyle questionnaire and diet assessments. 

Participants, who were between the ages of 40 and 75, provided information about their lifestyle according to the three categories the index measures: “Mediterranean food consumption” (intake of foods part of the Mediterranean diet such as fruits and whole grains); “Mediterranean dietary habits” (adherence to habits and practices around meals, including limiting salt and drinking healthy beverages); and “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality” (adherence to lifestyle habits including taking regular naps, exercising, and spending time with friends). Each item within the three categories was then scored, with higher total scores indicating higher adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle.

What the study found: The researchers followed up nine years later to examine participants’ health outcomes. Among the study population, 4,247 died from all causes, 2,401 died from cancer, and 731 died from cardiovascular disease. Analyzing these results alongside MEDLIFE scores, the researchers observed an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle and risk of mortality. Participants with higher MEDLIFE scores were found to have a 29% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 28% lower risk of cancer mortality compared to those with lower MEDLIFE scores. Adherence to each MEDLIFE category independently was associated with lower all-cause and cancer mortality risk. The “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality” category was most strongly associated with these lowered risks, and additionally was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.

The key takeaway: While many studies have established the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, little research has been done on followers of the diet outside of its region of origin. “This study suggests that it’s possible for non-Mediterranean populations to adopt the Mediterranean diet using locally available products and to adopt the overall Mediterranean lifestyle within their own cultural contexts,” says lead author Mercedes Sotos Prieto, Ramon y Cajal research fellow at La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and adjunct assistant professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School. “We’re seeing the transferability of the lifestyle and its positive effects on health.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #150

Celebration Potato Pancakes Recipe, Spotlight on Smoked Salmon, Benefits of a Hot Pan, and Flavonoids’ Mood-Boosting Benefits

A wonderful late autumn dish, potato pancakes with smoked salmon are tasty and satisfying. And you can elevate them from everyday to festive with flavorful garnishes perfect for the most elegant celebrations. I’m also sharing welcome news about the mental health benefits of foods rich in flavonoids and an invitation to sign up for a bone health masterclass from Kevin Ellis, the Bone Coach—the time is now to protect your bones.

Celebration Potato Pancakes

  • Potato Latkes Celebration Potato Pancakes

    This twist on traditional potato pancakes gets sweetness from parsnips and a hint of tartness from the apple, plus garnishes that add more levels of flavor. Eggs replace flour as the binder, making this version gluten free as well.


    • 12 ounces red potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
    • 1 medium yellow onion, about 8 ounces
    • 1 large Granny Smith apple, washed
    • 6 ounces parsnips, peeled
    • 3 large eggs
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use, plus more as needed
    • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup skyr, sour cream, or mascarpone
    • 4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into 32 pieces
    • A few springs of fresh dill
    • Additional garnishes: capers, salmon roe or another caviar, diced red onion 


    Step 1

    Using the grating blade of a food processor or a large box grater, finely grate the potatoes, onion, apple, and parsnips. Transfer to a very large bowl and mix well. Add the eggs, the 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss thoroughly. Preheat your oven to 250°F and line a rimmed sheet pan with paper towels.

    Step 2

    Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a 1/4 cup measure as a scoop, make a layer of pancakes, flattening them slightly with the back of the measure. Cook over medium heat until they brown on the bottom, flip, and continue cooking until the underside browns and crisps. Transfer to the sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

    Step 3

    To serve, top each pancake with a dollop of skyr, sour cream, or mascarpone; a piece of smoked salmon; a snippet of dill; and a few capers, roe, or another caviar, if desired.

    Yields 8 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Smoked Salmon

Whether you prefer your smoked salmon Scandinavian style with butter on dark bread or New York style with cream cheese on a bagel, this specialty fish has the same health benefits as grilled or poached salmon plus a salty, smoky flavor. It retains salmon’s natural omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost the health of your heart, brain, and eyes.

Smoked salmon also delivers on protein, plus vitamins A, B12, and E and the mineral selenium, all for about 30 calories per ounce. Do read labels to make sure that the sodium content from the curing process won’t put you over your limit—its salty taste means you can skip the salt shaker when eating it as a topper on your potato pancakes or avocado toast, and when adding it to scrambled eggs. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Start with a Hot Pan

I’m not a fan of adding olive oil to a cold pan—that has the effect of cooking the oil while the pan itself gets to the right temperature. Instead, heat your pan or pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes; when a few drops of water sprinkled on the surface sizzle, it’s time to add your EVOO and then the food to be cooked.

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Flavonoids’ Mood-Boosting Benefits 

According to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition by Department of Veterans Affairs researcher Galya Bigman, PhD, having a lot of flavonoids in your daily diet is linked to a reduced risk of depression. Flavonoids are a key group of natural compounds found in plant foods and offer a variety of health benefits. For this work, Dr. Bigman used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES: 2007–2010, 2017–2018) including self-reported depressive symptoms and dietary intake of flavonoids from more than 12,000 participants. Total flavonoid intake (mg/day) was calculated and divided into quartiles, with participants’ flavonoid intake was ranked.

Participants in the highest vs. lowest quartiles of flavonoid intake had a 10 to 13 percent lower incident rate of depressive symptoms, leading to the conclusion that “flavonoids may have a central role in alleviating or preventing depressive symptoms.” While further research is needed to clarify the mechanisms responsible for this positive link, the research notes the top food sources of flavonoids that the participants enjoyed: cocoa/chocolate, tea, soy-based products, onions, chili/sweet peppers, berries, dark-green leafy vegetables, celery, and lemon.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #149

Roasted Potatoes and Foolproof Scrambled Eggs Recipes, Spotlight on Urfa Chili and Oregano Pearls, Measuring Spices, Plus Spices and Your Health

The saying goes that, for better health, eat dinner like a pauper and breakfast like a king or queen. There are even research studies to support the idea: because breakfast prompts increased calorie burn, it can be helpful for staying at or losing weight. Of course, we don’t need science to tell us that breakfast can be delicious, too, and I’m sharing two of my favorite recipes to prove it. They feature spices that I like to source from the magical land of Turkey—oregano and black Urfa chili—and they truly elevate this classic eggs-and-potatoes meal. 

Roasted Potatoes

  • Roasted Potatoes Roasted Potatoes

    Fragrant and richly hued, yellow rice takes the standard side dish and elevates it. This recipe gets another taste boost from the green peas. 


    • 2 pounds red or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into roughly 2-inch cubes
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon Black Urfa Chili
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt


    Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 450°F. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil, spices, and salt. Roast for 50 minutes, flipping the potatoes and rotating the pan after 25 minutes. Taste and season with more spices as desired. 

    Yields 4 servings

Foolproof Scrambled Eggs

  • Scrambled Eggs Foolproof Scrambled Eggs

    A properly preheated frying pan makes fast work of scrambled eggs that stay tender. Black Urfa chili adds just the right amount of zest to the finished dish while the oregano adds brightness.


    • 8 large or extra-large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
    • Black Urfa Chili and dried oregano


    Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and then the beaten eggs. Let the edges firm for a few seconds, then lower the heat and use a spatula to scramble the eggs, drawing the outer edges in and keeping them moving to prevent browning. Take off the heat just before fully set and let sit for two minutes to finish cooking. Season to taste with the black Urfa chili and oregano, then drizzle with olive oil. 

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Urfa Chili and Oregano

Black Urfa Chili

Black Urfa Chili (Capsicum annuum) takes its name from the ancient southeast town of Urfa, Turkey, where local farmers grow it in the surrounding hills. In many areas of that country, Urfa chili, also known as Urfa biber, is as common on the dinner table as cracked black peppercorns are here, and it has been for centuries. These peppers are red and shaped like bell peppers, but they pack a taste that a bell pepper can only dream of! 

Urfa peppers magically turn maroon as they ripen. Then, unlike most peppers that are simply dried after harvest, they go through a double process—sun dried by day and tightly wrapped at night, a technique that preserves their oil content, enriches their flavor, and deepens their color to a purple-black. They’re then stone ground into small flakes with some sea salt and sunflower seed oil to further enhance their texture and rich, complex flavor profile—the deep heat of cayenne without the sharpness. 

Why you should have this spice in your kitchen: Black Urfa chili adds sweet smokiness to all Middle Eastern dishes, and it’s especially delicious on boreks,koftis, kebabs, and other grilled meats, and on veggies. It’s equally good in many other cuisines—think French stew or an all-American chili. Include it in wet or dry rubs for proteins, especially pork. It will enliven your favorite salad dressings, jazz up scrambled or fried eggs, and add extra depth and a hint of heat to brownies, blondies, hot chocolate, and even a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Oregano Pearls

Oregano’s popularity among American cooks is relatively recent. Legend has it that GIs returning from World War II brought back their new love of pizza, liberally sprinkled with the herb, and its use here exploded. Though closely associated with classic dishes of southern Italy, oregano (Origanum vulgare) is an essential in cuisines throughout the Mediterranean region. It’s also popular in Latin America as well as Mexico, and it is the perfect herb for chile-based dishes. But know that what’s labeled “Mexican oregano” is actually a member of the Verbenaceae family and not a true oregano (it’s also much sharper). 

Oregano was first cultivated in Greece. Mine comes from Denizli, Turkey, located in the heart of the Aegean region, just a few hours’ drive from the sea. The country is known for growing prized oregano—indeed, Turkey satisfies more than half of global demand. Dried oregano is typically made from the leaves, but my Curated Culinary Selections’ oregano “pearls” (complete with a grinder) are the tiny buds of the oregano flowers. And timing is everything: They’re handpicked before they have a chance to bloom and then are air dried. This special process gives them a bright flavor and makes them perfect for grinding as needed.

Why you should have this spice in your kitchen: Perfect in tomato- and meat-based sauces and bold pasta dishes, oregano is also wonderful when paired with garlic—for the best garlic bread, brush slices with fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil and top with a few grinds of oregano pearls before they go into the oven. Flat breads and focaccia will benefit, too. Oregano adds great flavor to grilled fish, roasted chicken, and all kinds of meat, especially lamb (kebabs and patties in particular), and to your favorite chili recipe. Beyond pasta and pizza, sprinkle it on Greek salad,omelets, frittatas, roasted potatoes, and even fries. 

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Spices and Your Health 

As with all chile peppers, at the heart of black Urfa chili’s heat is capsaicin, the naturally occurring compound that determines how sweet or hot a pepper is. Capsaicin has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, so it may help protect against infection, improve digestion, and possibly one day have a role in anti-cancer therapies. According to a report published in the journal Molecules, there’s some evidence that eating hot pepper, like Urfa chili, every day helps curb hunger and may even lead to a higher calorie burn rate. Research is underway to figure out the best daily amount, but in the meantime you can test out the theory yourself. 

Oregano is one of the most widely used botanicals in herbal medicine, thanks to its high concentration of plant nutrients. Phytochemical compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids give it the triumvirate of health benefits: antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Sipping a tea made from dried oregano, for instance, can calm an upset stomach or a cough. It’s also being looked at to help stave off diabetes—researchers at the University of Illinois found that it disrupts a diabetes-related enzyme and merits serious investigation. It may also boost liver health. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Measuring Out Spices

While measuring spoons are the tried-and-true way most people measure quantities, you might find more and more references to gram weights for ingredients in recipes. That’s because weight can be more precise than volume, especially when measuring whole spices that don’t fit perfectly in a spoon. An electronic scale with a bright digital readout will be a great addition to your kitchen gadgets. 

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