Cooking in the Tropics: Lemons
I went to the Auto Mercado this morning and saw a plastic container of Limon Acido (Persa), or where I come from, what is commonly known as lemons. What a find! Whenever I see a citrus fruit that resembles a lemon I try it. Sometimes the flavor is beyond bland, but today the lemons were juicy and flavorful. I made some vinaigrette for my salad and grated some zest to use in a seafood pasta. And then I used Paula Wolfert’s recipe to make Seven Day Preserved Lemons. The recipe is meant for thin-skinned lemons like Meyer lemons, but I like the flavor of the thick-skinned Persians. The preserved lemons are very salty, so rinse them before you use them. Here’s the simplest recipe:
Paula Wolfert’s Seven Day Preserved Lemons:
- 4 large (about 6 ounces each) lemons (preferably thin-skinned), scrubbed
- 2/3 cup coarse salt
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 large lemons)
- olive oil
Dry lemons well and cut each into 8 wedges. In a bowl toss wedges with salt and transfer to a glass jar (about 6-cup capacity). Add lemon juice and cover jar with a tight-fitting glass lid or plastic-coated lid. Let lemons stand at room temperature 7 days, shaking jar each day to redistribute salt and juice. Add oil to cover lemons and store, covered and chilled, up to 6 months.
I use the juice from the preserved lemons to make a vinaigrette for green salad. It’s particularly good with a greek salad of kalamata olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, bell pepper and cucumber. Add preserved lemon to brighten a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.
To make delicious olives for appetizers, finely dice a teaspoon of preserved lemon and a tablespoon of parsley. Coat the olives in this mixture and add olive oil to taste. Let them marinate for a few hours before serving.
Top a ginger carrot soup with finely diced lemons and parsley.
Be careful cooking with preserved lemons – the rind can become bitter if overcooked. Add a tablespoon of diced preserved lemon to your favorite seafood pasta. Or as a final touch for a pasta vodka sauce. Preserved lemon is used in many Mediterranean dishes. My favorite is Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives. It’s also great for tomato sauces. Or to make a couscous salad (tabouleh). Combine with artichoke hearts to make a quick spread for crostini.
Christina Spilsbury and Rick Macsherry have lived in Tamarindo since 1989. They own and operate Sunset Catering.