This weekend I made preserved lemons in honor of a recent guest on my radio show. Last month I interviewed Mourad Lahlou, chef owner of Aziza
in San Francisco, CA, and author of Mourad New Moroccan: The Cookbook
First of all, the guy, Mourad, is absolutely beautiful. We stood eye-to-eye (I'm 5' 6.5"), but his personality is 6' 6". He is breathtakingly beautiful with his bald head and tattoos (and I'm not particularly fond of tattos). But, he has that mischievous twinkle in his eye that drives me to distraction, and he has conversation that gives you the vapors. Did I mention that I am smitten?
I always read my books (from cover-to-cover) in order to be well prepared for my interviews. If you don't already have it, and you have a love of Moroccan (or any Middle Eastern food), then it is a must-have for your culinary library. It is FABULOUS!
We have a love of food in common, but his enthusiasm and creativity is beyond comparison to any others I have interviewed (except maybe Lidia Bastianich). The itnerview was a breeze, and we had a definite bond that I expect will pay dividends down the road. He is soon to have his own PBS food show and travelog (much like Lidia's Italy), and will in the fall launch a line of Everything Moroccan with William Sonoma. I can hardly wait. I asked him about the one thing he would consider quintessentially Moroccan in his cuisine -- of course his answer was preserved lemons
. I told him that I had prepared those a couple years earlier -- and that took our conversation to a whole new level. This is what he revealed that is not in the book: after you make the preserves, separate flesh from skin (after about a month). 1) Put the skins into another glass jar and cover with a neutral oil (like safflower or canola -- not olive oil or grapeseed, as they will impart another flavor) and refrigerate -- use in salads, meat and other dishes, even desserts. 2) keep the syrup from the preserves in another jar and use in vinegrettes (such as champagne) or other cooking (a little goes a long way as it is salty -- but the flavor is unmatched). 3) for a more versatile preserved lemon, use a combination of salt and sugar. For this batch I used 3:1 salt to sugar. It's still a salty concoction, but tamed in a way. I'll let you know how I use it in the future.
In addition to this preserve, I made the Hunan Salted Chilis from my new favorite blog site (thanks Jenise), Food On the Brain
I love a saltlick, and this was the perfect preserve for me. As you can see, I added a few garlic cloves. I liberally sprinkle these over curried or braised meats, salads, noodles, or anything else I think would satisfy me greater with a hit of salt. I am in preserve heaven. Hope some of you take the plunge soon.