lemons exceed your expectations. Lemons with salt are
seen Friday, April 18, 2014 in St. Louis
close your eyes, you can imagine you are wending your way
through the crowded streets of the casbah, with the camels
and the open-air markets and the heady aroma of tagines
cooking over charcoal fires. A bite of preserved lemon can
do that to you, transport you to a land you have never seen
or perhaps back to a land you once called home. It is the
secret ingredient to cooking throughout North Africa but is
especially associated with Morocco. Along with couscous, it
is one of the foods that define the entire region. Preserved
lemons are one of those ingredients that, the first time you
try it, you ask, "What is that taste?" It is
definitely like a lemon, but it has been wonderfully
intensified. It’s like a SuperLemon.
lemons are readily available at Middle Eastern groceries,
international groceries and specialty stores, but why buy
them when you can make them yourself? All it takes are
lemons, salt and patience.
because it takes a month for the salt to work its magic on
the lemons. But during those four weeks your anticipation
builds. You think about the taste that will await you when
the lemons are ready, you start planning how to use them.
You may even start to think that you are building them up
too much in your mind.
worry about it. Preserved lemons exceed your expectations.
lemons create strong pops of flavor anywhere they are added;
they are the ultimate condiment in that they work as an
accent in support of the main part of the dish.
are also incredibly versatile. Their skin can be used to add
zip to hummus (typically, only the skin is used; the pulp is
usually discarded). They could add an unforeseen element to
grilled vegetables or be included in a stunning vinaigrette.
They can add zest, as it were, to a salad or even be used in
dessert, as we shall see. Some local restaurants offer them
there is one dish to which preserved lemons are forever
connected, it is chicken tagine from Morocco. Traditionally,
tagine (the food) is cooked in a tagine, an earthenware pot
shaped like an upside-down funnel. The tagine pot is said to
produce the best flavor in a tagine, but they can be pricey
and have few or no other uses.
their place, you can use a heavy skillet with a lid or even
a shallow casserole dish that is suitable for the top of a
chicken tagine is basically a stew, with the most tender and
delicious meat. What makes it a tagine are the spices:
garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cilantro, all cooked
over a bed of thinly sliced red onions. All it needs are a
couple of elements to provide a profile-altering
counterpoint. A couple of handfuls of purple olives add salt
and visual appeal, while the preserved lemons yield
delicious bursts of piquant lemon flavor.
lemons are also a natural accompaniment to many seafood
dishes. If regular lemons go well with seafood, as we know
they do, preserved lemons can only be better.
that more or less logical idea in mind, I decided to create
a dish that would bring out the best in shrimp as well as
turned to some old favorites that always help shrimp find
its potential: garlic, of course, and white wine, with just
a bit of tomato for depth. And then I brought out the big
gun, but just a little of it — Old Bay (or any similar
seafood seasoning) helps shrimp taste the way shrimp are
supposed to taste. And then I added the preserved lemons.
seriously good, with a clean, unsullied taste.
dessert, I was blown away by the idea of a food website’s
astonishing idea. It used preserved lemons in a semifreddo
and cooled down the tartness with a basil simple syrup.
semifreddo is a soft but frozen dessert, sort of like a
frozen mousse if the mousse were partly made of ice cream.
Adding preserved lemons to it is genius.
make a semifreddo, you make whipped cream (it’s essential
that it’s homemade) and add it to whipped egg whites, and
then you gently fold in a flavoring. In this case, the
flavoring comes from a little lemon zest and a preserved
wanted a fuller flavor, you could use the juice from the
pulp as well as the skin. I was looking for subtlety in my
semifreddo, so I went with the skin alone.
like eating a lemony cloud.
TAGINE WITH PRESERVED LEMON
teaspoon saffron threads
garlic cloves, minced
teaspoons salt, divided
1/2-pound) chicken, cut into quarters
tablespoons olive oil
medium red onions, sliced lengthwise
teaspoons ground ginger
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground turmeric
teaspoon lime juice
tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
teaspoon black pepper
cup purple Moroccan or Greek olives
Lightly toast saffron in a dry, small, heavy skillet over
moderately low heat, shaking skillet, until just fragrant,
about 1 minute. Transfer to a small dish, let cool, then
crumble with fingers.
With a mortar and pestle, mash chopped garlic and ½
teaspoon salt to a paste.
a large bowl, toss chicken with oil, onions, ginger,
cinnamon, turmeric, lime juice, 3 tablespoons of the
cilantro, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and
Separate the chicken from the onions and spread the spiced
onions across the bottom of a 12-inch tagine, 12-inch heavy,
covered skillet or a shallow, covered casserole. Place the
chicken on top. Cut the preserved lemons into quarters and
scrape the pulp from the peel. Coarsely chop the pulp and
sprinkle over the chicken. Cut the peel into ½-inch pieces,
3/4 cup water to tagine, skillet or casserole, cover and
bring to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes, until chicken is almost
cooked through. Check occasionally toward end of cooking
time to be sure tagine is not dry, adding more water if
necessary to keep meat from burning and sticking to pot. Add
olives and simmer, covered, 10 minutes longer until chicken
is cooked through. Just before serving, sprinkle with
preserved lemon peel, remaining cilantro and salt to taste.
serving: 600 calories; 38g fat; 9g saturated fat; 165mg
cholesterol; 55g protein; 10g carbohydrate; 3g sugar; 3g
fiber; 1,155mg sodium; 80mg calcium.
from Gourmet magazine.
WITH PRESERVED LEMONS
tablespoon olive oil
cloves garlic, crushed
small tomato, cut into chunks
cup dry white wine
teaspoon (2 pinches) Old Bay or other seafood seasoning
pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
Scrape pulp away from skin of preserved lemon and discard
pulp. Chop skin into ¼-inch squares and reserve.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute (toss
occasionally to keep garlic from burning). Add tomato, wine,
Old Bay, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 3 to
5 minutes, occasionally pressing down on tomatoes with spoon
or spatula to help soften them.
shrimp and reserved preserved lemon skin. Cook, stirring
occasionally, until shrimp is fully cooked, about 3 minutes.
Remove bay leaf and serve immediately.
serving: 165 calories; 5g fat; 1g saturated fat; 180mg
cholesterol; 20g protein; 4g carbohydrate; 1g sugar; 1g
fiber; 820mg sodium; 90mg calcium.
by Daniel Neman
Lemon Semifreddo with Basil Syrup
8 to 10 servings
small preserved lemon
of 1/2 lemon (not preserved)
granulated sugar, divided
cup heavy cream
tablespoons chopped fresh basil, about 10 leaves
Spray an 8- or 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line
it with aluminum foil or 2 large pieces of plastic wrap,
which hang over the sides of the pan.
Thoroughly rinse the preserved lemon and scrape the pulp
away from the skin. If you want more of a lemon taste,
extract the juice from the pulp by pushing it through a fine
mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the remaining pulp. Finely
chop the skin.
Make a lemon simple syrup by placing the chopped skin, the
extracted juice (if using), the lemon zest, 1/2 cup sugar
and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high
heat just until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is
clear. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve to remove
the lemon pieces; retain both the lemon pieces and the
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside in the
a clean mixer bowl, mix the egg whites on high until they
begin to hold a shape. Lower the speed to medium-low and
slowly pour in the lemon syrup. Turn the speed back to high
and beat until the whites are glossy and doubled in volume,
about 5 or 6 minutes.
Carefully fold in the lemon pieces and then the whipped
cream. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and
cover with the overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze at least 6
hours or overnight (it will keep in the freezer for up to 3
While the semifreddo is freezing, make a basil syrup by
placing the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the basil and 1/3 cup
water into a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat
until sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Allow to
come to room temperature, and blend in a blender until the
syrup is flecked with green.
serve, invert the semifreddo onto a serving platter and
remove the plastic. Slice into thick planks and drizzle with
the basil syrup.
serving: 195 calories; 12g fat; 7g saturated fat; 20mg
cholesterol; 2g protein; 22g carbohydrate; 20g sugar; no
fiber; 30mg sodium; 25mg calcium.
adapted from Kerry Saretsky in SeriousEats.com