Monday, October 06, 2014

Preserved Lemons

Let me tell you about one of my favorite ingredients. It's something that adds sunshine and happiness to any dish: preserved lemons. Yeah, regular fresh lemons can do much the same thing, but when you preserve a lemon, that is, pack it in salt and allow it to sit for a while, the lemon flavor seems more intense. And you can eat the whole thing. But maybe throw away the seeds.

So what to do with preserved lemons? A traditional North African condiment, found predominately in Moroccan cuisine, the lemons' flavor works beautifully with olives, lamb, chicken, and smoky harissa paste. I chop a bit up and put it in chicken salad, and I've stewed chicken thighs with tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, and preserved lemons, too. Stir a little into mayo to make a nice topping for a lamb burger. You'll find several uses for preserved lemon in the Minxeats archives, for example in this swiss chard dish, this bean dip, and this chicken and fennel dish.

Preserved lemons even taste good in guacamole.

Making preserved lemons is the easiest thing ever. It just requires a bit of patience. Like six week's worth.

Preserved Lemons

Lemons (organic if you can find them; Meyer lemons are great)
Kosher Salt
Lemon juice
Jar large enough to hold lemons snugly

Cut the lemon nearly in half lengthwise, stopping about a half inch before you reach the other tip. Make another identical cut perpendicular to the first cut, so the lemon is nearly quartered. Holding it over the jar you're going to use, prise the four sections apart and pour kosher salt into the space between them. Close the lemon and place in the jar. Repeat with enough remaining lemons, squashing them as you put them in, that the jar is full and lemons are packed very snugly. Fill the remaining space with lemon juice and a couple spoons-full of salt. Cap the jar and shake it so the juice is evenly distributed.

Refrigerate, shaking every couple of days so any salt and juice that accumulate at the bottom is distributed through the lemons. I find it takes about a month to six weeks for the lemons to soften to the proper texture (they should feel cooked).

To use, cut off a the amount you need and rinse it (or not) before adding to your dish.

Yes, I started this post so long ago, we still had a Christmas-themed tablecloth on.
Preserved Lemon Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1/8 of a preserved lemon, rinsed lightly and minced
3 scallions, finely chopped

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the preserved lemon and scallions and mash with a fork until the desired texture. You shouldn't need to add salt, as the lemon is quite salty.

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