Preserved lemons and the power of social media, my friend Don Odiorne, a man that knows all about Idaho Potatoes, posted on Facebook that he dined at Mourad’s in San Francisco, the only Moroccan restaurant in the country with a Michelin star. Reading his post, I had to dig out Mourad’s cook book. I purchased his book New Moroccan at the CIA in Napa Valley. It is a fascinating book, full of passion, simple recipes that scream flavor and his cooking represents the soul of Moroccan cuisine.
Almost every weekend I cook at home and most of the recipes I cook, I post on my blog. I love to cook and as a chef, even after all the years of cooking, I truly believe that I still need to evolve in my cooking exploring different flavors and foods. Taking pictures of food and food styling is a natural extension. I love the creativity part of it, displaying food in a way that the picture tells a story. If you look at a one of my food pictures and it inspires you to cook the recipe; I think I succeeded.
The first time I cooked real Moroccan food was with Joyce Goldstein. She is a chef, food writer, and restaurateur with a deep knowledge and expertise of Mediterranean food; oh, and also author of 26 cook books. For 12 years she was chef-owner of the ground breaking Mediterranean Restaurant, SQUARE ONE, in San Francisco. I remember cooking with Joyce, she used preserved lemons, chermoula, fresh herbs, and buttery cous cous, which sometimes was seasoned with cinnamon. I recall the ease of the recipes, there was no tweezer food, everything was about flavor and letting the ingredients speak, memorable food that worked your taste buds.
Preserved Lemons are easy and quick to make and last practically forever. They are lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juice, sealed in a jar and placed in a dark area for a month.
After a month, you will have an intense, concentrated lemony Umami bomb that can be used for dressings, seafood, grain salads or the famous Moroccan chicken made with preserved lemon and olives. Or try adding preserved lemon to Hummus. Yum!
The lemons reach their peak after about 3 to 4 months. To keep them from softening further, it is recommended to remove the lemons from the jar and remove the bulb and pith. Mostly only the yellow rind is used for cooking. Once the lemons are stripped of the white pith, you will discover that the rind has lost most of its bitterness and has softened to a creamy texture. Then store the rinds in a glass jar completely covered with olive oil for up to a year in the refrigerator.