Dear Barbara: One of the ingredients called for in a recipe I wanted to make was fresh marjoram. The supermarket that I shop at was totally out. Is there something I could have substituted for the marjoram that would not completely change the taste of the dish? — Andrea from Lodi
Dear Andrea: There are many kinds of marjoram. A few that I am familiar with are “sweet” marjoram, and “wild” marjoram.
Sweet marjoram is what we get at the supermarket, but they don’t use the word “sweet” on the package, they just call it marjoram. It tastes similar to oregano, but not as strong, and I personally think it has just a slight lemony taste as well.
Wild marjoram is also called oregano, and vice versa.
So I would say you could have used standard oregano, but just use a little less than the recipe calls for to compensate for the stronger taste.
Dear Barbara: I don’t know if you have been asked this before, but I have a question about rice. I always seem to make too much. Can you freeze it? I would think it would just be mush when you thawed it out. — Marcie from Lodi
Dear Marcie: For years, I didn’t freeze rice for the same reason you mentioned, that it may get mushy. When I really thought about it, I realized that there are many frozen dinners that contain rice. I decided to try it, and it worked beautifully!
Not all rice freezes well, but long grain white rice, brown rice, and wild rice (which isn’t actually rice) freeze quite nicely. The shorter grain rice seems to get sticky when you thaw it out.
It really makes it nice if you like to cook meals ahead to use on those “short on time” days. You can have a whole meal ready to go, including the rice!
Dear Barbara: There are several people in my office who like to cook. We do, however, disagree on a few points. One of the most recent disagreements concerns orzo, couscous and quinoa. Are they grains, or are they pastas? — Sabrina from Lodi
Dear Sabrina: Good question! Orzo and couscous are both very small pasta. Orzo actually looks a lot like rice. Couscous is also pasta, but served in a more granular form.
Quinoa is mostly served as a grain. My husband cooks it as a hot cereal in the mornings. I have also made salads with it. You are seeing it more and more in magazines and on store shelves.
However, I have read that they do sometimes grind quinoa into flour and make several kinds of pasta with it. I have not seen that for myself. Most of the major supermarkets carry the grain. You might be able to find the flour and pasta in a health food store.
It is a very complete grain, very high in protein. It looks like little tiny beads, and it doesn’t have a lot of flavor of its own, but quinoa seems to take on the flavors that you add, very much the way pasta does.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at email@example.com. Please include your first name and city.