Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lemons, and their well-preserved punch

Preserved lemon is an easy condiment to make, and can a punch to usually bland dishes such as baked fish, chicken or veal. It makes mayonnaise taste yummier in a tuna fish sandwich, and can be used anywhere you need an essence of lemon and salt. Somehow, when the lemon sits in its brine, it becomes at once more lemony and less tangy, and you can eat the entire lemon, rind and all.

Your homemade version probably won't look as pretty as the tiny lemons in a jar from Morocco, but you won't be paying upwards of $8 for them, either.

Easy preserved lemon

You'll need:
1 half-pint jelly jar with good-fitting lid
2 lemons (no wider in the middle than the inside of the jar)
Kosher salt

Sterilize the jar with boiling water and cool. Slice one lemon thinly; throw away the ends. Put in a teaspoon of salt in the bottom of the jar. Put each slice in one at a time, sprinkling each with kosher salt, until the entire lemon is in the jar. Sprinkle a little extra salt on top. Juice the other lemon and pour the juice over the sliced lemon and salt. Put the lid on tightly and shake to mix well. Keep out on the counter for about a week, shaking and turning upside down at least once a day. Put the jar in the refrigerator and the slices will be ready to use in about two weeks. When you're down to the last couple of slices, it's time to make a new jar. The lemon will keep in the refrigerator for at least 6 months.

Here's a simple recipe from blogger Kerry Saretsky to get you started once your own preserved lemon has mellowed:

Parmesan, Preserved Lemon, and Thyme Wafers

Serve these on top of a salad of baby spinach dressed lightly with lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Lemon heaven.
- makes 9 wafers -
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the finely chopped preserved lemon pieces in a mesh strainer, and rinse very well. Dry on paper towels, and pat very dry.
Mix together the dry lemon pieces, the Parmesan, and the chopped fresh thyme leaves. On a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, heap little tablespoon mounds of the cheese mixture, leaving room for them to spread as they melt, and bake in the oven for 4 or 5 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet, then lift off with a spatula and allow to rest on paper towels until cooled and hardened. If you're ambitious, you can form them into tubes while they are still hot.

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