Thursday, March 8, 2012

Using Preserved Lemons

Recently I posted about Making Preserved Lemons, and since then, several folks have asked me just how to use these pretties. It's actually a very good question, since preserved lemons are not a typical part of the American Food Culture. Here's some suggestions, and at the end, a couple of recipes.

First, the taste: There is a really intense lemon taste to them, and like fresh lemons, it has a tartness but also a sweetness (and of course, a saltiness since they are preserved in salt). The small is wonderfully lemony, like lemon oil. But the taste and texture is not really like fresh lemons, and I don't have the words to adequately describe the taste. You'll just have to make some yourself and taste... Use it only lightly at first, because the taste can be powerful (and partly depends on the lemons used). You will develop a feel for how much to use, to suit your own taste.

Some prep is necessary for use. Take one out of the jar and rinse it. Pull or cut away the pulp and scrape away the white pith, which can still be bitter... although some folks use both pulp and pith, discarding any seeds. I wouldn't start with pith and pulp in my introduction to preserved lemons, however.

You might start with a lemon vinaigrette. Make your usual  oil and vinegar combo (including any herbs), and add some finely minced preserved lemon peel to taste. 

Add a touch of finely minced preserved lemon peel to roasted vegetables... the kind of veggies where you might brighten with a splash of fresh lemon... such as carrots or broccoli. I use a tad of the juice on just cooked (rather than roasted) vegetables like summer squash, and on seafood, especially salmon and scallops.

Add some to braised lamb shanks, and chicken picatta. Add some to soups and stews, but don't forget to reduce the amount of salt!

Add some to stir-fried or braised greens like spinach, chard and kale. Use it to add a bit of tang to pilafs, pasta, quinoa and couscous. Roasted chicken is wonderful with a wedge or two alongside.  

Slow-cooked meats like short ribs are dazzling with a sprinkling of minced preserved lemon peel.

Add a touch of preserved lemon to guacamole, aoili, and your Sunday Brunch Bloody Mary.

Here's a relish that would be wonderful with roast chicken:

Preserved Lemon Relish
Makes ¾ cup
1 shallot, minced
5 or 6 preserved lemon wedges, seeded and minced
½ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
—Kosher salt, if needed
—Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Put the shallot, preserved lemon, parsley, oregano and thyme into a medium bowl and toss together gently. Taste and correct for salt if necessary. Add several turns of black pepper and stir in the olive oil. Add the pine nuts and toss gently. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 to 3 days.

Variation: Use just a cup parsley and replace the oregano and thyme with a cup minced fresh cilantro leaves. Use chopped toasted walnuts in place of the pine nuts. For a mildly spicy version, remove the stem and seeds of a small serrano, mince it and fold it into the relish.

"Gremolata in its most traditional form is a mix of grated lemon zest, minced garlic and minced parsley. It is served sprinkled over osso buco and similar meat stews. This version uses preserved lemon instead of fresh lemon zest, which adds several layers of flavor. It is delicious sprinkled over soups, stews, grilled poultry, fish and meats and rice dishes."

Preserved Lemon Gremolata
Makes ½ cup
Use about 2 cups, loosely packed, Italian parsley leaves and small stems
5 or 6 preserved lemon wedges, peel only, minced
4 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

Use a sharp chef's knife to mince the parsley and transfer it to a medium bowl. Add the minced lemon peel and minced garlic, toss and transfer to a small serving bowl or glass jar. Use within a day or two.

Variation: Add ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Other Recipes:

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