Preserved lemons: a savory flavor for spring

Preserved lemons are among the simplest recipes of all.  Simply wash lemons, cut a 1/4″ slice off each end, then either nearly quarter or quarter, depending on your jars.  Liberally rub the lemons with coarse kosher salt, then pack in the jars until they release enough juice to cover.  Set aside for 6 weeks – and that’s it!IMG_4830IMG_4829

A little bit of finely chopped preserved lemon adds a lemon-y flavor to dishes without the sour, acidic taste, and also adds a little salt.  My two favorite ways to use them are in grain-based salads and stews.  When preparing the grain for a salad, for example cooking brown rice, add the rinsed minced lemon to the grain just for last 5 minutes.  Add your vegetables, a little oil, lemon juice or vinegar and seasonings.IMG_4828

For stews, simply add the chopped lemon along with cooking liquid.  It works well with tomatoes, peppers and garlic, and the protein you add such as chicken, firm fish or pork, will absorb the flavor as it slowly cooks.

I was lucky to come across fresh grape leaves and made dolmas filled with rice, lemon and chives.  Just remember to reduce the salt you add to the dish when you use preserved lemons.IMG_4813

Asparagus and Brown Rice Salad with Preserved Lemon

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 quarter preserved lemon (a wedge, 1/4 of a whole lemon)
  • 2 bunches fresh asparagus
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/2  fresh lemon for juice
  • fresh ground pepper and additional salt – but taste first!
  • Cook brown rice in 2 cups water.  While it is cooking, rinse the preserved lemon, remove any seeds, and finely chop.  Add to the rice during the last 5 minutes of cooking, covered.  Meanwhile, cut asparagus into 1/2″ pieces and blanche briefly and drain.  While the asparagus is still warm, put in a large bowl and add oil, part of the lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss, and add the warm lemon-scented rice.  Toss again, add salt and lemon juice as desired.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.
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