have i already written about you, preserved lemon? i’ve certainly thought about it. i even took pictures of you, i remember. it was going to be part of that three-parter, that mighty triumvirate i was plotting in honour of the little ol’ lemon and my then surprising, new, and now abiding love for it. the lil’ guy (or gal?).
it was going to go like this:
I. PRESERVED LEMONS, and how i love ’em.
II. SEARED LEMONS, as a topping for pasta or salad, mostly. so summery!
III. LEMON JUICE, 1 or 2 lemons worth, neat, for breakfast, its vitalizing properties.
i first picked up some preserved lemons at L’Olivier in the Jean-Talon (where i have just been informed of the distinction between moroccan and tunisian harissa, more on this soonish), and was immediately taken, because they are all salty and sour and bitter in spades and so how couldn’t i be? and then i read all over the place how easy they are to make at home, but pickling/preserving being one of those things i have an emotional/culinary block about (i just can’t seem to commit to it. if anyone versed in these arts feels like dating and/or marrying me, i’m sure that would be sufficient motivation for overcoming this hurdle), i never go around to it.
just last week i bought a jar of them from Akhavan, and while they are good, maybe a little pithier tasting, or merely pithy tasting in a less pleasant way? (it is mostly the rind that one is supposed to use, btw, a popular ingredient in tagines, chutneys, the like, and once you’ve had it, you’ll realize you’ve tasted it in all manner of places before) so i somewhat cowedly pictured this jar sitting half-full in my fridge for you know the rest of my life, until this weekend at the market (at a totally different shop, one of the food stands, on the opposite side of the market, i wish i could remember his name…) i chanced to try a pickled lemon confit this dude makes himself with an assortment of spices that a) was delicious, and b) reminded me i can do whatever i want (ie: that) with my preserved lemons. so i’m gonna. gonna have cardamom and chilis and uh, fennel. i’ll get back to you. (note to self: you are, however improbably, out of cardamom again. weird. sleepwalking? investigate)
this guy also makes his own hot sauce all with homegrown(farmed?) peppers, which was pretty good except it was Thai Sweet Chili style, which is unfortunately probably my least favourite species of hot sauce, besides perhaps Bland El Salvadorean Sauce or Stupid Boring Chipotle Sauce.
so. expect to hear more on lemons.
seared lemons. it can be a gamble, because you wanna cook them at high enough heat to actually sear ’em and get the sugars cookin’, but not so hot that the outside blackens before the inner pith cooks, ‘cos otherwise they’ll be too shocking.
similarly, you gotta cut ’em thin, so this’ll have a devil’s chance of happening , but not so thin that by the time they’re done they’re just a brown heat-chewed old rind with no juice in ’em.
worth the effort though. good with any lively or bitter green pesto pasta dish, some cream sauce affairs, and most salads that don’t have too much else going on. i’d say nothing more obtrusive than white wine vinegar or lemon and oil to dress, a slightly bitter green like spinach or frisée or escarole, and some kinda nice toasted seed (almonds man. almonds). milder cheeses like fior di latte or ricotta work well, although i’ve also had success with crazy salty stuff like armenian string cheese (which goes with all lemon) or even some blues.
who am i kidding, do whatever you want.
oh, and fresh squeezed lemon juice for breakfast – it’s like a less soul-corrupting shot of espresso.