Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What to Do With Those Preserved Lemons

I was recently speaking to a fellow food blogger about preserved lemons. Not usually a topic of conversation with friends, but it seemed perfectly normal with a foodie friend. We discovered that we had both made 2 quarts over the winter and neither of us had used them yet. Preserved lemons are a specialty item that most of you will never desire and never miss, but if you ever have a good one quietly mixed into a dish, you'll notice a more concentrated essence of lemony flavor than even fresh zest can provide.

I had also preserved two quarts last year, but had to throw them out after we had an extended power outage. Although the lemons are preserved in a ton of salt, the recipe I used specified to keep them refrigerated, and I just wasn't sure they were still OK after a being unrefrigerated for so long in the summer heat. This year, I vowed not to waste these golden orbs a second time. Like last year, I used Meyer lemons from California, which are a little sweeter than the usual lemon we get around here. They are actually a hybrid between a lemon and an orange or tangerine.

I hadn't had home preserved lemons before, just packaged ones from the specialty store, so I wasn't completely sure how they would taste. Some of the jarred ones I'd had before were rather bitter and not particularly appealing.

I am happy to report that mine are delicious and I can now imagine a myriad of uses for them.

The first taste test occured when I made this recipe using a really fresh piece of wild Alaskan halibut that I lucked in to at Costco, of all places. I adapted what Goin calls the "salsa," really more of a vinaigrette, and got creative with the leftover vinaigrette the next day. I had a couple of cups of cannellini beans I'd cooked from dried a few days earlier, and some beautiful French green beans or haricots verts from the farm market. I also added some yellow grape tomatoes and some thinly sliced, red cippolini onion. I didn't add any other herbs as I wanted to be able to really taste the lemon vinaigrette.

So while I realize that many of you will never make this recipe, I'm posting it for those of you still hoarding quarts of preserved lemons in your fridge. I'm talking to you, Kim! Even if beans are not your thing, if you've got the lemons, try this on fish, pork, beef, chicken, or even vegetables such as spinach and peas.

Bean Salad in Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

vinaigrette adapted from Suzanne Goin

(serves 4)

For the vinaigrette:

1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 preserved lemon, lightly rinsed and flesh discarded, rind thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1/3 cup olive oil
freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
2 cups cannellini beans, either cooked from dried or from one can of no sodium added beans
1 dry pint French green beans (haricots verts), stem ends trimmed and cut in two
a handful or two of yellow or red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced red onion

1. To prepare the vinaigrette, place the shallot and vinegar in a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the agave nectar, and then the oil. Add in the preserved lemon rind and a couple of grinds of pepper. Set aside

2. Combine the two kinds of beans, the tomatoes and onions in a serving bowl. Spoon about half the dressing over top and mix gently to combine. Add more Tablespoon by Tablespoon until you achieve a balance you like. You might not use it all and can save the rest in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.


  1. Hi Wendy -- this sounds delicious. Can you use regular, non-preserved lemons?

  2. Anna - you can use the zest of a lemon and/or a little lemon juice to make a regular lemony vinaigrette. I often do that with chickpeas so it is like a deconstructed hummus. This is an even richer lemon flavor and the bits are meatier. If you want to try it next winter, let me know and I'll send you a recipe!

  3. Actually, Anna, here's a link to an old post of mine with a similar salad with a regular lemon vinaigrette. Glad I'm consistent. http://healthierkitchen.blogspot.com/2009/05/another-use-for-vinaigrette.html

  4. thank you, Wendy!

  5. BTW, I just checked my recipes folder and saw that I had already saved that old post! Glad I'm consistent, too! :)

  6. I use preserved lemons a lot in cooking! They make great soups and stir fry and yes, salad... although the asian/moroccan version is probably different from your version since we don't slice the lemon when preserving it-- that way the natural liquids that form are thicker and honey like, which we then use in green tea :D Anyways, glad to see the experimentation!