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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What To Do With.... Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Happy new year! I don’t know about you, but I think I misspent some of my Christmas vacation. To start, I ate way too much, I watched a Tori & Dean: In Love Season 2 marathon (oddly addictive) and then, feeling pangs of guilt, I rushed to a crowded gym this week sweating out the sins of the last two weeks. Good bye, chocolate truffle cake! Adios, Tori & Dean! So long, foie gras! Hello, spinning class!

The new year is an appropriate time to make a brand new start, to wipe the slate clean and to do things a little differently this year, so I hope you don’t mind if I share my resolutions with you this year.

Exercise regularly. Say four times a week would be great. Five is even better.
Be organized so I can pack a lunch at least four times a week. When I pack my own lunch, I make better choices about my diet than when I am a slave to my growling belly.
Reduce stress by putting things in perspective. I don’t need to be at the beck and call of every urgent email or phone call. It’s about prioritizing what’s important and having the fortitude to say, “no.” (Sounds oddly easy, but I find this hard.)
Making time for friends and family. (This is a no-brainer.)

Here’s hoping that we all keep the resolutions that help us become more fulfilled and happier people. Cheers.

Now onto business…

I have a rather large jar of preserved lemons taking up space in fridge right now. I have used exactly two tiny lemons and I suspect there are approximately another twelve or thirteen to go. Without focused intervention, this jar will languish in my fridge for years.

Apparently, preserved lemons, in the Moroccan style, are very easy to make. I googled it and found loads of really easy recipes. But they require 30 days of undisturbed brining time. If you can put lemons in a jar, you can make preserved lemons. Who knew! (I didn’t have the foresight to make these little darlings; I bought them at St. Lawrence Market.)

Preserved lemons are wonderful. They are mouth-puckering tart with a deliciously salty bite and our jar, in particular, a faint hint of heat from the red hot chili pepper wedged between lemons. Pickling turned the entire fruit into an edible delight, skins and all.

I had been meaning to buy preserved lemons ever since I first saw them at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal. (If you have never been, do go to the market! It’s a sight especially at the peak of the season.) Preserved lemons are a Moroccan staple and they may be discovered in the middle-eastern spice/grocery stores sometimes in massive apothecary jars bathing in a very salty brine. I have always given them a pass because I never felt inspired enough to buy them (as in, “I must buy this now!” inspired.)

But then inspiration struck while I browsed the food section at Williams-Sonoma last week. I was minding my own business when I a gleaming glass jar caught my attention: Artichoke and Lemon Sauce for pasta. Well... The jar was a bit spendy for my budget, but I decided that this could easily be made at home. I chopped up the preserved lemon and the pasta dish turned out quite well. Now, I have a nearly full jar of preserved lemons. So here is what to do with… Preserved lemons.

Artichoke & Preserved Lemon Linguine
1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated)
1 lb linguine
1 small preserved lemon – finely diced
1 small red onion – finely diced
juice from 1 lemon
1 c white wine (I used a Riesling but you could also use vegetable broth)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter

Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Melt butter in a large saucepan, add onions and cook until onions until they soften.
Add can of artichokes hearts, breaking up some of the hearts with a wooden spoon, but leaving it rather chunky. Add white wine, lemon juice, Old Bay, celery salt and preserved lemon. Cook until sauce thickens.
Drain pasta well and pour into a large bowl. (Reserving a cup of pasta water to loosen the pasta.) Pour artichoke mixture of the pasta and toss. Aim for evenly coated noodles and loosen with reserved pasta water as necessary. (Be judicious here, you probably won’t need it all!) Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

1 Minute Avocado & Tomato Salad
Add 4 quartered compari tomatoes with ½ small avocado that has been diced, and about a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon. Toss and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.


Toss hot couscous with chopped preserved lemon, and toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Caper and Preserved Lemon Relish
One part chopped preserved lemon, one part capers, a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Serve over broiled fish or chicken.

As an add-in to:
Chickpea Stew
Chicken and Olive Tagine
Beef meatballs (kofte)

As a substitute for lemon and lemon zest:
Honey and lemon martini (oh yum)
On top of yogurt and blueberries (with a drizzle of maple syrup)
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