I absolutely love it when people gift me home-grown fruits and vegetables and herbs. I have something of a black-brown thumb, and the only things I've ever managed to keep alive are mint, lemons, and--under threat of my mom's admonishment--orchids. So, because I can't produce my own bountiful crop, I love it when people share theirs with me. But, I have to admit, when this big bag of dried home-grown oregano landed in my hands (a gift from one of R's aunts), I was a bit perplexed. I mean, what am I going to do with all of this oregano?
Oregano is definitely one of the herbs that I utilize the least. Beyond oregano in your basic spaghetti sauce and chili, I've never given oregano much more thought, instinctively preferring rosemary or thyme or even sage instead (btw, did this song just pop into anyone else's head? Obviously Simon & Garfunkel didn't know what to do with oregano, either! ). But after scratching my head for a few weeks and seeing all of these fresh blueberries over-running the local farmers' markets, I figured that I could put a spin on one of my favorite classic lemon-thyme and strawberry combinations with lemon, oregano, and blueberries. And I was right-- these lemon-oregano shortcakes with lemon-scented quark and blueberries were dead on delicious.
[Note: Quark is a German cheese, reminiscent of cream cheese yet oh so much creamier! I use it for both savory and sweet applications.]
The dried oregano gives these shortcakes an incredible fragrance that complements the sweetness and--dare I say it?--plainness of the lemon and blueberries, adding just that perfect extra touch to make you take one bite and come back for a second. The creaminess and sharpness of the lemon-scented quark and the delightful bursts of blueberry piled on top really work with the ultra-flaky lemon-oregano shortcake underneath, too. And, this dessert is so incredibly fast and easy to make (a welcome change after last week's time-consuming s'mores cakelettes!), making it the perfect, everyday dessert for breakfast or tea-time. Yes, this one goes fabulously with tea.
This very blue and yellow dessert actually comes at a rather serendipitous time for me, today being the start of school at the institution I'm visiting this semester, whose colors just so happen to be blue and gold! Ah, don't you just love it when your desserts and food perfectly reflect your life?
Anyways, I still have most of that huge bag of dried oregano left--for sure I'll be making some more of these shortcakes as soon as my finger heals and for as long as blueberries are in season. But, please share! how would you use dried oregano?
Read on for recipe...
Lemon-Oregano Shortcake with Blueberries and Lemon-scented Quark
makes ~12 two-inch shortcakes
for lemon-oregano shortcake:
2 Tbspn lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
4 tspn baking powder
3/4 tspn salt
1 heaping Tbspn dried oregano
1/2 stick (4 Tbspn) butter, cold
1/4 cup + 2 Tbspn heavy cream
1/4 cup + 2 Tbspn whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
2. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Then, add the lemon sugar to the flour, baking powder, salt, and dried oregano in a bowl. Mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Using a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the size of tiny pebbles.
4. Mix the heavy cream and milk in, mixing until combined but no longer--be careful not to overmix!
5. Roughly shape the shortcakes and place them onto the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake the shortcakes for ~15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
for lemon-scented quark:
1 cup quark
1 1/2 Tbspn lemon zest
juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed (~2 Tbspn juice)
2 Tbspn vanilla or plain sugar
1. Mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla sugar into the quark until combined.
1. Toss the fresh blueberries with a dusting of sugar.
2. Top each shortcake with a generous dollop of lemon-scented quark and a spoonful of blueberries.