Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette with Parsley and Mint
There are times when life seems like a vacuous and soul-sucking pit of miserable desolation, and other times when the brightest stars of the sky align in the most mysterious and fortuitous manner. And, YAY! Because I LOVE those times! Good things are nice, aren’t they? I like good things. I like being overly dramatic, swooning, and becoming all verklempt with counterfeit emotions as well, but once in a while ‘content’ is pretty good too. Here is a chronological ordering of events that may lead you to a state of happiness:
1. The winter is cold and unforgiving. You’re craving exotic spices, rich flavors, and slow braised foods.
2. You decide to make a lamb tagine with preserved lemon and olives, but your local grocery store does not have any affordable lamb (and STEWING lamb, at that!) and you forgot that you ran out of preserved lemons some time ago. You sigh, in the most lugubriously melodramatic fashion, and feel lonelier because nobody noticed.
3. Gwen asks about various uses for preserved lemons. At first you’re excited because Gwen is awesome and so are preserved lemons. Then you’re depressed because you remember again the not-having of said lemons. You sigh again…..nobody notices. You’re starting to take this to heart.
4. Your accompany your partner to help another food blogger, Peter, to rebuild his site. To be precise, you sit on the couch and read cookbooks of Greek food, munching on cured meats and waiting for them to be done with all that Computer Stuff. He sends you home with a baggie of assorted herbs from his family home in Greece and a jar of preserved lemons that he swears he’ll never use.
5. All is right in the world once more.
6. No, not quite right. You still have no lamb.
7. Screw the lamb. You have preserved lemons. Let’s not split hairs at this point. Let’s make salad instead.
Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette with Parsley and Mint
Makes 2 cups/500 ml
- 1 preserved lemon
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- small handful of fresh mint (about 1/4 cup when chopped fine)
- medium handful of fresh parsley (about 1/2 cup when chopped fine)
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 500 ml mason jar with a lid
Are you familiar with preserved lemon? Well, for a start, they’re not actually brown like my despicable photo below would have you believe. Preserved lemons are generally made from small thin-skinned lemons (roughly the size of a large lime). The lemons are cut vertically almost all of the way down into quarters and then the center is stuffed with salt. They get smushed into a jar, covered with some more salt, and the rest of the jar is filled up with lemon juice. The jars are kept in a cool dark place for several weeks, shaken periodically, until the lemon has officially brined. The texture of the rind will be similar to a candied lemon, and the pith will generally be quite pulpy.
Needless to say, they’re very salty. Very, very salty. And lemony. You can’t forget lemony.
So! I’m sure that it bores you to tears when I make my ominous sounding warnings or caveats, but I really do feel compelled. You know how sometimes one strawberry jam is sweeter than another? Or how two bars of 70% cocoa chocolate can sit side by side, and one just tastes more chocolatey? Oh, or how some vinegars are really acidic and others are mild. Well, so it goes that preserved lemons will vary by salt content, texture, and size. There. Now you’ve been warned.
I’m going to ask you to do something now, and try not to be scared. Cut off a wee tiny sliver of preserved lemon and taste it. Does your mouth pucker with the salt, or do you wonder what all the fuss is about? If your lemon is super-salt-saturated, give it a quick rinse under cold water to take some of the salt off. If it’s relatively mild and just very lemony, that’s okay – you can add more salt to the dressing.
Follow the slits that cross-section your lemon and finish the job. If you see any seeds please just pop them out.
Generally you only use the thin rind of a preserved lemon, but waste not want not. Unless there is a reason not to use the pith (and there often is), I’m much happier chopping it up as well. Slice each quarter lengthwise again and then very finely mince it until the lemon looks pulpy.
And yes, in response to your unspoken criticism question, that IS the same cutting board in both pictures. C’mon now, be kind. I never claimed to have a natural affinity for photography, and I’m well on the shallow side of too lazy to do any color corrections.
Alright, now the fun begins! And by ‘fun’ I mean, ‘no more dishes’. Press or zest the garlic cloves (you can also mince them into a paste, if you prefer) directly into your Mason jar.
Finely chop the mint and parsley. Really try to chop as finely as you can, because the only person I know who likes to have large, swampy weeds of uncut herbs in their salad dressing is dear ol’ Michael Smith, bless his Atlantic heart. As for me, it actually fills me with a splintering white-hot rage that knows no bounds or reason. There is a possibility that I threw something bouncy at the TV when he put whole fronds of dill in a salad one time, but I’m rather fuzzy on the details of that particular crime of passion. And I do adore good Mr. Smith anyway, even if I would like to sit him down and have a verbal death-duel about cutting up apples for a pie.
And now I’ll shake myself out of the rabbit’s warren I call a thought process. Back to the herbs. Please chop them finely.
Add the herbs and minced preserved lemon to your jar.
Pour in the vinegar and olive oil.
SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE!!!
If your lemons were really salty then you likely don’t need to adjust the seasoning. If you had mellow yellows though, maybe just a touch? And some fine white pepper too, if you like, would not be wholly amiss.
And now the time has come.
The time to Dress The Salad.
As this dressing is full of Middle Eastern flavors, here’s a little something that you should know about Middle Eastern salads. They’re not fussy or trendy. They’re not full of various leaf lettuces (leaf letti?) that you feel obliged to refer to using a French translation (Laitue Iceberg, s’il vous plaît), or nuts that cost $18.00/lb. There is usually some crispy, water filled lettuce, fresh vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, peppers or radish, and that’s often it.
Tossed with some preserved lemon vinaigrette, this salad is bright, refreshing, and a fabulous accompaniment to grilled chicken or meat. Jeez, I love salad. I really, really love salad. Too bad that I also love butter and cheese, or I’d be in danger of dropping into one digit sizes eventually. God forbid!