Monday, January 31, 2011

Marrakech Express?

Tonight I am not making an actual recipe for something we are going to eat tonight, but rather I am making an ingredient for a future meal. About 4 weeks into the future to be accurate. I have been reading the cookbook Couscous and other good foods from Morocco. It was first published in the early 70's and is the "Bible" of North African cooking. In fact, all recent English language Moroccan cookbooks are compared to it when they are reviewed. It is supposed to be the baseline for authentic foods of the region.

You might wonder why I have this sudden interest in Moroccan foods and all I can say is IONO. For those of you unfamiliar with teen text say it aloud by syllables I-O-NO. (shrugging shoulders and teen attitude is optional) I have been exploring a lot of different ethnic cuisines and Moroccan sounds like flavors we will enjoy. (We will also be doing some Cuban, Italian, Eastern Europe, Philippine and Thai recipes) In order to cook the Moroccan foods properly one ingredient appears over and over. It is the one or 2 teaspoons of preserved lemon that pops up in almost every recipe. I began wondering where I was going to find the lemon but after reading further found the recipe (method?) for creating it at home. So tonight as I was cleaning the kitchen I noticed 3 lemons I had bought that were screaming to be processed ( moved from the counter top). It is simple and easy, but only time will tell if I have done this correctly.

Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco Paula Wolfert

Preserved Lemons

organic lemons
coarse salt
bay leaves
coriander seed
whole hot dried chili
whole peppercorns

Scrub the organic lemons well. I washed mine with a fruit and veggie spray from the health food store. Trim the little humpy top so it is even with the top of the lemon. Also trim the stem end so no part of the stem remains. Hold the lemon with the stem end sitting in the palm of your hand and make a slice through the lemon (lengthwise) stopping about 1 inch from the stem (bottom). Turn the lemon 1/4 turn and make another lengthwise slice stopping an inch from the bottom ( Should be an X shape)

Fill the insides of each lemon with coarse salt (at least 1 tablespoon per lemon) and place each lemon in a clean glass jar. (I found it was best to hold the lemons over the sink while stuffing the salt in them. It is messy and the salt tends to drop. A quick rinse and I was clean!) My jar would only hold 3 lemons but I think I will add a couple more over the next few days because they lose some of their bulk as the juices seep out of the lemons. Add all or any combination of the spices. I left out the cinnamon only because most of the recipes I have read have cinnamon added anyway and I did not want cinnamon twice . I had some very small very hot whole chili peppers and used 2 of them. It might be too much but I won't know for a few weeks. Press down on the lemons to release some of the juice. I used a dough tamper because it has a flat surface and it did squeeze the lemons without damaging the lemon's structure. Leave the lemons in a covered jar overnight and the next day repeat the process of pressing the lemons to release more juice. Continue this daily for 3-4 days. If they are not completely covered in juice on day 4 add enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to completely cover the fruit. Then simply put them on the counter and just let them develop for the next 3 1/2 weeks. At he end of the curing time put the jar in the fridge and they will last for about 6 months. Supposedly they can be canned after curing and will last for a couple of years. You are on your own with that. If I had lemon trees and an abundance of lemons I guess I might try it, but because I don't, I will just do a few at a time.

To use: Scrape all the pulp from the peel. Rinse to remove the excess salt and pat dry. Mince, slice or cube the peel and use in these fabulous recipes I have been reading. They say you can press the pulp through a fine mesh and use the lemon juice for flavoring in recipes but to discard all of the pulp.

I have no idea if this will work or not but I am trying. I'll let you know in a month!

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