Saturday, November 6, 2010

Preserving the Season
What’s cooking? Quick "Preserved" Lemons

Some two or three years ago, I read for the first time about preserved lemons. I thought they sounded way cool as a condiment – they come out of Moroccan cuisine, and while I have no idea what that means, they apparently are best made from Meyer lemons, which I greatly love.

Here’s the story: you take 8-10 lemons, slit the sides, jam them together in a large jar with enough salt to choke a kosher horse, and after about three weeks, the skins become pickled and are apparently great in relishes or lemon-herb butters, in salads, to dress up cooked green veggies, and as a flavoring in soups. (FYI: Meyer lemon season runs for the next 3-4 months, so if you want to try preserving some, check out this site for a more cogent description of the process.)

But notice the three-week part. I must tell you that, these days, I have the memory of a gnat and the patience of a two-year-old, so this is not a recipe designed for me. Which didn’t stop me from wanting to try them. I dutifully cut the lemons, filled the jar, and put it in a cupboard to ripen. Two years later, as we were packing the kitchen for the move, I found them again. And threw them out. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t survive the 2,000-mile journey, and even if they did, ...two years????

Then just a couple of weeks ago, Mark Bittman, one of my favorite food columnists from The New York Times, came up with this three-hour version of preserved lemons. As they say here in Austin, yee-ha! Even my brain can manage this one. And, in fact, it’s quite wonderful. The Meyer lemons aren’t nearly as bitter as regular lemons, and the addition of a little sugar to this concoction furthers a nice whisper of sweetness to the tang.

The day I made this recipe, I bought a couple of flounder fillets, which I sprinkled with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and cracker crumbs (having no bread crumbs in the house). Then I simply broiled them for 5 minutes and served them and the lemon relish with mashed potatoes and some steamed broccolini – for a very tasty meal.

Kitchen Goddess Note #1: If you really must have preserved lemons but really don’t want to go through the process, Williams-Sonoma now carries preserved lemons in brine: 7 ounces for $10 plus shipping.

Quick “Preserved” Lemons (adapted from The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2010)

4 lemons, unwaxed (or scrubbed of wax)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Dice the lemons, removing as many seeds as possible. Put lemons and their juice into a bowl and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Toss well and transfer to a jar. Let mixture sit for at least 3 hours at room temp, shaking the jar periodically. Store in refrigerator.

Kitchen Goddess Note #2: Aesthetically speaking, and to make the relish easier to serve, I think the dice needs to be about ¼".

Kitchen goddess Note #3: To remove the wax from the lemons, drop them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rub them dry with a kitchen towel.

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