Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.
Today: Melina Hammer shows us how to smartly use up the preserved lemons in our pantries.
I can't recall how I first learned of preserved lemons, but ever since, it's been heaven. They're everything you love about citrus, only amped up: Every bite is brighter and more savory than the last. I'm always on the fence as to whether to only use the rinds, which are the most prized; I don't like to waste food, and the flesh has a lovely, softly juicy quality, so sometimes I use just the rind, and other times I include it all. Make a batch for yourself -- you'll need only lemons, salt, and time -- rinse them, and then throw them into dinners all week long.
Crispy Potato-Chorizo Hash with Preserved Lemon and Parsley Flowers
Drain and cool boiled Yukon Gold potatoes, then flatten (or "squash") each with a pan or the broad side of a chef's knife. Fry all the bits in olive oil with a little garlic until they're deeply golden, adding sliced chorizo along the way and frying the sausage until it's just crisp. Pile the hash onto a baking sheet or serving dish and toss in the thinly sliced rind from half a preserved lemon. I am lucky to have farmer friends these days, so I added the blossoms from parsley as a pretty finishing touch. If you can't get your hands on the flowers, torn parsley does just fine. Eat warm for breakfast or dinner -- or both.
Brown Rice and Lentils with Preserved Lemon
This has been a steady go-to for me ever since the night I didn't have anything in the house, was having someone over, and decided on a whim to make this dish out of items from my pantry. It is great. The combination is extremely flavorful, feeds a crowd, and is vegan, if that interests you. Cook Puy or Beluga lentils according to package instructions, and then, cook brown or basmati rice separately. Toss them together in a bowl. Add in some good olive oil and a tablespoon or so of nutritional yeast, and then a whole preserved lemon, chopped. Mix it all together and you have a very satisfying, simple meal. I love it all ways: cold, room temperature, or out-of-the-pot warm.
Cornmeal-Fried Oysters, Preserved Lemon Mayo, and Radish-Parsley Salad
Make an assembly line for dredging: drained freshly shucked oysters, a small bowl of all-purpose flour, another small bowl containing milk and a beaten egg, and a slightly larger bowl of cornmeal with a good pinch each of cayenne and chili powder. After dredging, dunking, and the final cornmeal crust, fry the oysters for no more than a minute on each side in grapeseed or vegetable oil. Place them on paper towels to drain while you make a quick radish salad (dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and parsley), and a preserved lemon mayo. For the latter, just stir a bit of lemon juice and half of a preserved lemon, diced, into mayo (either store-bought or homemade). Dig in.
Chèvre and Fava Toasts with Preserved Lemon
The inspiration for this was born of a recent CSA basket and the arrival of tender fava beans. Blanch the favas after removing them from their husks and shock them in ice water. Then, gently squeeze them from their membranes. Dress the prepped fava beans in a glug of good olive oil and some freshly cracked pepper. Slather chèvre on a thick piece of toast, then pile the favas on top of the cheese. Top with a good sprinkle of finely chopped preserved lemon rind, and you have the perfect snack, lunch, or light dinner.
Savory Shrimp with Chickpeas, Green Olives, and Preserved Lemon
This is a one-pot meal that doesn't take much time to prepare, and it can be eaten warm or cold. The preserved lemon adds a fantastic, somewhat zippy quality to the savory finished dish. No need for salt here -- you've got plenty of briny lemon and olives. Pour a glass of wine, and dinner's served.
Serves 3 to 4
1/3 of a garlic scape, or 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 of a large lemon
Good olive oil
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
8 ounces dried chickpeas
2 cups shrimp stock, or water
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 handfuls spiced green olives
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and sliced into thin strips
1 handful fresh mint leaves
Photos by Melina Hammer