Using Preserved Lemons 1
A month or so ago, I cut up and salted lemons and put them aside to cure in a jar. I was hoping to make some preserved lemons, a common ingredient in north African cuisine. Every day for four weeks, I turned my jar upside down and then right side up, and let it sit in the darkest corner of my kitchen. At the end of the month, according to my calendar, I put the jar in my refrigerator, waiting for the right time and recipe to use the lemons.
One day, as I was planning to make an orange cornmeal pound cake, I remembered the preserved lemons in the fridge. Instead of orange zest, I used the preserved lemons from my jar. I took out ¾ of a lemon, washed the salt off of it, removed the zest and cut it up into thin slices and then tiny pieces and added it to my batter to turn it into a preserved lemon pound cake. When I took that first bite, still slightly warm from the oven, I discovered that the preserved lemon infused the cake with a really great lemon flavor, slightly more pungent than regular lemon zest, and so much tastier. It felt like a burst of sunshine in my mouth.
After that first experiment, I was excited to use the preserved lemons in a tagine, a fragrant Moroccan stew that has made its way to southern France and now even to Goshen. I made a sauce with my first tomatoes just picked from our back deck container garden. And then layered carrots, potatoes, onions and peppers in my home version of a tagine dish. My enameled ironware replaced the earthenware pot usually used. The recipe I made also includes shrimp and, of course, the preserved lemon, cut into thin slices. Once again, the lemon made its way through the vegetables, giving them an unmistakable and bright flavor. When we had the leftovers the second day, the tagine was even better. Overnight, the flavors blended perfectly.
Preserving lemons is one way to keep them long term. My use of them so far tell me that they can replace fresh lemon zest to add a deep lemony flavor to all sorts of dishes. Cooking and baking with them bring a new world to my table. My next experiment might just be ice cream with preserved lemons and ginger...
Here is the recipe for the pound cake.
Preserved Lemon Cornmeal Pound Cake
¾ c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 ¼ c. flour
¾ c. coarse yellow cornmeal (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
½ t. salt
1 ½ t. baking powder
⅓ c. buttermilk or yogurt
4 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 T. vanilla extract
¾ of a preserved lemon, minced
Grease a bread loaf pan (or you can use a brioche pan like I did in the top photo, or make baby pound cakes). Then sprinkle it with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl. Mix the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla in another small bowl. Slowly add alternately the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, then add the preserved lemon, until just mixed.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean. Let rest 15 minutes then pop out of the pan and onto a rack to finish cooling.