Because we prize preserved lemons for their softened, salty, umami-packed rinds, many recipes call for rinds only. Those recipes may also instruct you to discard the pulp. But save both the flavorful pulp and brine. Preserved lemon pulp and brine stashed away in your refrigerator is like having a genie in a jar on standby, ready to transform your dishes. (Go here for a preserved lemons recipe.)
I prep a pile of preserved lemons typically every February. For several hours one morning or afternoon, I stuff lemons with salt, pack them into jars, cover them with the juice of more lemons and wait. Within a month, I’ll have enough softened preserved lemons on hand to last the year. Not bad for half a day’s work.
If you started preserved lemons in late winter or early spring this year for the first time, you may wonder what to cook with the rinds, much less the pulp and brine. The following ideas will help you go through your jar—or jars—of preserved lemons quickly, from rind to pulp to brine. In fact, you’ll probably want to preserve more lemons next year. (Go here for a preserved lemons recipe.)
Add preserved lemon pulp, brine and rind to cultured cashew “cheese”
Last week, I made a fabulous batch of cultured cashew cheese, something like hippie cream cheese. For this amazing batch, I kickstarted the fermentation with kimchi brine, of which I had little, and preserved lemon brine, of which I have lots. But after tasting it—because I always taste as I go!—it needed more lemon. So I added a small part of a preserved lemon, about half of one of the quarters in my jar. It tasted fabulous. Two days later—after a short, bubbling fermentation on the kitchen counter—I couldn’t stop eating the cashew cheese. Go here for the basic, highly adaptable recipe.
Make preserved lemon salad dressing
If you have preserved lemon brine, fresh lemons and olive oil, you have the makings of a salad dressing that you’d pay a small fortune for in a store—if you could find it. Combine approximately one part preserved lemon brine, one part fresh lemon juice and two parts olive oil. Or if you have lots of leftover pulp that you’d like to use up, whir that in a food processor with the lemon juice and olive oil. Taste and adjust. You won’t likely need additional salt as the lemons contain plenty.
Toss together a grain bowl
Elevate a grain bowl with preserved lemon brine. Hot grains stirred into a mixture of preserved lemon brine, fresh lemon juice and olive oil will soak in those delicious flavors. Toss your vegetables and legumes of choice into the dressed grains, and lunch—or a simple dinner—is served. Use the ratios in the dressing above.
Add to dips and sauces
Preserved lemons taste delicious in hummus, pesto, salsa and even guacamole. Be sure to taste as you go when adding this pungent ingredient! Either add the brine in place of some of the fresh lemon juice called for in the recipe or whir in the rind and pulp. If I have loads of brine, I’ll add brine. If my lemons have begun poking through the top of the brine in my jar—and that’s okay in the refrigerator…mine have never developed mold in there—then I’ll use the lemons themselves.
Whir up a tapenade-like dip
Many tapenade recipes call for anchovies. Although I’ve omitted them here, the preserved lemons help compensate for the missing umami. I can’t really call this dip tapenade because the word tapenade comes from the Provençal “tapeneï,” the name for the caper plant and I’ve swapped out the capers for preserved lemons. But you could add capers as well. My recipe calls for the rinds only so reserve the pulp in the jar to use later, perhaps in the recipe that follows. Serve this spread with sourdough crackers or sourdough bread. Go here for the recipe.
Stir brine into dal or soup
I need only a handful of ingredients to make dal, but of that handful, I must have lemon or lime juice. Several years ago, while making dal for dinner, I realized after starting that I had neither lemons nor limes on hand. But I did have a jar of preserved lemons in the refrigerator and came up with this delicious pumpkin dal recipe, which I now cook often. (By the way, you can also preserve limes.) Pulp would also work. Add that after sautéing the onions, garlic and chilies and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon as you stir.
Find more preserved lemon recipes in my cookbook!
My cookbook includes a couple of recipes that explicitly call for preserved lemons—Preserved Lemon Hummus and Farro and Kale Salad with Preserved Lemons and Dried Apricots—and other recipes that they taste delicious with as a garnish such as the Cauliflower and Potato Dal served with Dosas. You could add a bit of preserved lemon brine to my Lebanese Tabbouleh recipe also. Ohhh, a splash of brine would be nice in the Stepped-Up Ketchup, a fermented version, or maybe in the As You Like It Honey Mustard. Once you start improvising with preserved lemons—the brine, pulp and rinds—they will become a favorite, magical, can’t-live-without kitchen staple.