Preserving lemons is a bright idea

You know those ideas or recipes that just stick with you for years? The ones that just grab your attention, tingle your taste buds, intrigue you?

The ones you made once, loved, but never made again?

Well, for me, that’s preserved lemons.

Coming across a handwritten recipe used 11 years ago, I was flummoxed.  How have I not been making them regularly? Especially since a note at the bottom of the recipe simply says, “fantastic.”

The whole idea of preserving these bright yellow fruits in their own juice and salt is so simple. And the deeper lemony flavor is a natural paired with chicken. Preserved lemons are asssociated with Moraccan cuisine, and as such, they blend seamlessly with otherr Moraccan all-stars like tomatoes and olives, ginger, coriander and cilantro.

But don’t hesitate to go Italian as well. Throw them in pasta with olive oil, fresh rosemary and kalamata olives, or sauteed spinach, walnuts and lots of garlic. You can use the flesh and rind or just the rinds, depending on the texture you want.

Now that you can get organic lemons in any grocery store, and Meyer lemons as well, eating the rinds of lemons is less of a daunting idea and eliminates the brief boiling to clean the rinds that is included in my old recipe.

Preserved lemons are not an instant dish. The lemons have to mellow for at least three weeks before you use them. So get going now, and they will be ready to brighten any of  your spring dishes.

Preserved Lemons

4-5 lemons, organic is best.

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

1 pint canning jar, sterilized

Lightly scrub and dry the lemons. Cut a thin slice from the top and pointed end of each lemon, just enough to expose the flesh.

Cover the bottom of the canning jar with a thin layer of salt.

Set lemon on flat end and, using a sharp knife, cut into quarters lengthwise, to just above the bottom (leaving the quarters attached).

Put as much sea salt as you can inside the lemon, then pull sides together and stuff the lemon into the jar, squeezing gently to release juices.

Repeat with remaining lemons, packing them tightly into the jar, and squeezing to release juices.

The juice should completely cover the lemons, but leave 1/2 inch of headroom. If the lemons aren’t completely covered, use juice from additional fresh lemons. (Do not use bottled lemon juice).

Put the lid on and store in a kitchen cabinet. Shake the jar every day to distribute juice and salt. In three weeks, lemons are ready. Rinse them well and blot dry before using. You can refrigerate them after the first use.

Chicken Saute with Preserved Lemons

4 chicken thighs

2 Tbsp. canolia oil

1 onion, chopped coarsely

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ginger

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes,

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup pitted green olives

1 whole preserved lemon, chopped coarsely

Over medium-high heat, saute the thighs in the oil until browned, about four minutes a side. Remove chicken and leave enough fat in pan to cover the bottom.

Turn heat to low. Saute onions about five minutes, until softened. Add coriander and ginger and cook briefly, until spices release their fragrances.

Add tomatoes, with juice, and broth. Turn up heat to medium, and bring to boil, stirring frequently.

Return chicken to pan, skin side up.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add olives and preserved lemons. Cook five more minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

that’s preserved lemon

 

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