Revelations: Preserved lemons and mizuna

Every so often when I’m flipping through a Mediterranean cookbook (or, if it’s 1985, The Silver Palate Cookbook), I come across a recipe that uses preserved lemons.  Usually it’s accompanied by a little note that says something like: Preserving lemons is really easy.  Just quarter some lemons, rub with kosher salt, and stuff into a jar until it won’t hold any more.  Fill to the top with lemon juice, and keep in the cupboard for two weeks.  And that’s when I stop reading and think: I don’t want to make this recipe in two weeks, I want to make it now.

Well, I’m super chuffed to announce that my decades of not making preserved lemons are behind me, with assistance from my 8-year-old sous chef (nom de blog The Prophet) and this video from Food 52.  It really is as easy as they say.  I recommend using certified organic lemons because after two weeks you open your jar and chop up the lemons to use, pulp, pith, peel, and all, in a whole variety of dishes.

Always on the lookout for easy, tasty, healthy meals, I can’t get enough of lentils with preserved lemon and brown rice.  Mix up some of your favorite lentils (du Puy, if you ask me) and brown rice with a nice extra virgin olive oil, and nutritional yeast (for vegans) or parmesean.  Finely chop some of those preserved lemons and add them with perhaps some of the brine.  The bits of preserved lemons dot the lentils and rice like little juicy, sour, salty exclamation points.  I like to mix it up with one of my other recent discoveries — mizuna!

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It has recently come to my attention that the earnest tillers of the earth at my local farmer’s market have been cultivating myriad leafy green wonders.  Mizuna, according to Wikipedia, is also known as Japanese mustard greens.  I took a chance on this unfamiliar green because I have already eaten my weight in kale and spinach 1000 time over.  Mizuna’s sweet little leaves are delicate in texture with a slight bitter bite reminiscent of arugula but milder.  I stirred them right into the lentils and rice to add color and depth of flavor to the dish:

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In June, we took a trip to Chicago, where we ate at Il Pesce, one of the restaurants in Mario Battali’s Eataly, a.k.a. Foodie Heaven.  There, The Prophet and I shared a whole red snapper that was grilled with fresh herbs and slices of preserved lemon stuffed inside.  Turns out that the dish is easy to recreate at home.  Add fresh herbs – oregano, chives, cilantro, and parsley work well – to olive oil, brush on fish such as trout or salmon, and scatter sliced preserved lemon on top.  You can grill it or slow roast in the oven, and when you’re done, you may think you’ve been transported to a major Chicago food destination.

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