A classic Moroccan ingredient, preserved lemons lend an almost indecipherable flavor to a whole host of dishes such as couscous, lamb and vegetables tagines, recipes for chicken, and all manner of salads. The "lemonness" you expect is softened and sour and salty elements combine with a hint of sweetness for an entirely new flavor experience. Our good friend Mustapha's Preserved Lemons are packed in a mild brine solution, which transforms the once bitter lemon rind into a completely different ingredient, one that you will find enticing and indispensable.
Preserved lemons are usually rinsed to remove excess saltiness, and the rind can be blanched to remove even more of the saltiness. You can use the entire lemon if you wish, and the lemons will keep for up to a year in their brine - you may see a lacy, white substance clinging to preserved lemons; it is perfectly harmless, and can be removed by rinsing.
Try slicing preserved lemons thinly and tucking them into a fragrant stew or lentil dish, bake with fish or lamb or toss in a fresh vegetable salad. A twist of preserved lemon rind will make for one incredible martini.
A traditional North African ingredient rediscovered
Preserved lemons are a common, though often unrecognized, flavor in Moroccan food where they are known as "hamad muraqqad" and sold loose in the souks (marketplaces) - they are also an important ingredient throughout the rest of North Africa and can be used in some cuisines of the Middle East.
The distinctive texture and flavor of preserved lemons is essential to not only traditional Moroccan cooking, but also to the contemporary cooking of the some of the best chefs in the South of France, Spain, England, and right here in the USA.
As Paula Wolfert - the world famous author of many cookbooks on Mediterranean cuisines - notes, "their unique pickled taste and special silken texture cannot be duplicated with fresh lemon or lime juice, despite what some food writers have said."