One of my biggest frustrations is coming across foods that I know, in theory, I should like, but they just don't seem to work for me. One such food is preserved lemons. This should be a no-brainer for me. I love lemon. I love salt. I love anything pickled or preserved. Yet, try as I may, I've never eaten a preserved lemon that I've much liked. I've eaten them with meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. I have sampled different brands, tested different recipes, eaten them at restaurants–heck, I've even eaten them in Morocco, their place of origin! Alas, I just never got it.
But all of that has finally changed for me thanks to a new cookbook. The book, titled “Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work“, was written by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, popular food bloggers, educators and photographers. In the book, Kamozawa and Talbot offer new approaches to many classic recipes, often tweaking them in ways that make them both easier to prepare and better tasting, and their recipe for preserved lemons is a perfect example of this.
The traditional way of preparing preserved lemons is to first douse the lemons in copious amounts of salt, and then set them aside for weeks to allow the salt to penetrate the skin and flesh. As a result, their cell structure is slowly broken down, until the lemons are quite tender. Unfortunately, they are also typically quite salty and bitter.
The method proposed in Ideas in Cooking, on the other hand, not only takes a little more than a day from start to finish, but also leaves you with a perfect preserved lemon. The process calls for a surprisingly minuscule amount of salt compared to most recipes, requiring just one teaspoon for five lemons, as opposed to the one fourth to one half cup that most recipes call for with the same number of lemons. Instead of the extra salt, this recipe relies on the process of freezing and thawing the lemons multiple times to help break down the cell structure and tenderize them.
I made my first batch of these preserved lemons three days ago, and they are so good that they are almost all gone. I've eaten them on everything from sushi, to rapini to wild boar and can’t believe how well they stood up to each dish. They are tender, slightly tart and acidic, and mildly salty, with a refreshing light flavor and just a hint of pleasant bitterness. They are just as I always imagined a preserved lemon should be.