Monday, August 20, 2007

Figs, Preserved Lemons and Beets, Oh My!

I've been meaning to proclaim my love for preserved lemons on this blog for some time now, and I do believe that day has finally come. This might be a topic that requires a couple of entries, so thanks for your patience.

Tonight, I'm going to tell you about two very simple yet very lively tasting salads that feature preserved lemons, and later I'll post the directions as to how to make your own.

Try this recipe in the heart of summer when Black Mission Figs are exquisitely ripe. Take a basket of figs and slice them into quarters, and gently place them in a medium bowl. Cut a couple of ounces of firm feta cheese into bite-sized cubes, and gently place them into the bowl with the figs. Now dice a little bit of the rind of a preserved lemon, say... one quarter of the lemon or so. Sprinkle this over the figs and feta. Drizzle with olive oil, and give it a couple twists of fresh ground pepper. Thinly slice about four to six fresh mint sprigs, and sprinkle over the top. Give it a couple of gentle tosses, and serve immediately.

Here's another very easy and tasty salad. Steam three or four beets until they are just tender, and when they're cool enough to handle, slip them out of their skins. Dice them and place into a small bowl. Dice about one quarter of the rind of a preserved lemon and sprinkle it over the beets. Thinly slice three or four springs of fresh basil or mint, or a combination of the both, and toss this over the beets. Crumble a little bit of feta over the whole mixture, season generously with salt and fresh ground pepper, and enjoy!

In both of these recipes, you could use lemon zest in place of the preserved lemon rind, but if you've never tasted preserved lemon, you really ought to experience the flavor. It's totally vibrant and effervescent, so much more than mere lemon. You don't actually use the lemon's flesh, you only use the rind. The flavor lends itself nicely to Mediterranean and Moroccan cooking. I've been really wanting to experiment with creating a preserved lemon-influenced ice cream flavor. I shall add that to the list of upcoming obsessions.

Next time I'll get more into the nuts and bolts of how to preserve lemons. Until then, beauty sleep is calling...

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