Welcome to a really fun section of “The Taste Chase” that we would like to introduce called “Funky Food Finds” or “F3.” Why? Because I have come across some really incredible items in stores, restaurants and people’s pantries that have intrigued me to distraction. Funky Food Finds, also known by their code name, “the secret ingredient” may be just the thing you need to take the same 8 weeknight meal you make, and eat from gruel to cool.
Have you ever tasted something that was just so delicious, so mouth waveringly captivating, you just had to know what was? I think we’ve all had an experience like that or seen something that we have just had to try or wondered what something tastes like or how we could get it into our lives.
I had such an experience the other day while hanging out with my good friends Kurt and Sheila when we were lazing about on a recent Friday night trying to decide which of us would run for president. Being foodies as well, the conversation turned to everyone favorite Friday night fare: pizza. After arguing the merits of a crispy crust versus a softer crust, the inevitable subject of flavor came up which led to a general discussion about expanding our taste experiences. We batted around ideas, pairings, our own personal flavor dreams and taste concoction when a light from above shone resplendent on Sheila’s face…ok, well, you get it. Though not quite Joan of Arc, she quickly ran to her refrigerator and brought out one of the most wondrous things I had seen in awhile. In a Mason Jar labeled with Arabic writing, floating in clear lite syrup, were what looked like three bright yellow suns.
I marveled. It was both strange and alluring all at once. “Preserved Lemons. Salted.” Sheila stated with deliberate diction. I could not imagine what they tasted like or what they could be used in but I wanted to know.
“We found them from a wonderful vendor at the Stockton Farmer’s Market,” Sheila continued. “There is a woman who is from Tunisia who goes back home about twice a year and brings back the most wonderful items.”
Kurt joined her in enthusiastically recanting other fascinations seen at her little shop. “I use it in tuna salad and it’s amazing.”
Opening up the jar, she sliced one in half and we partook, rind and all. The first thing we noticed was the pronounced saltiness and the malleable texture. The lemon taste is mild but apparently when coupled with fresh lemon juice sends the flavor over the top. “This is something you can use on grilled or broiled fish.” she excitedly added.
We were clearly in foodie Shangri-la imaging all the things we could do with these. We came across a recipe for a relish/marinade for baked cod fish that included ½ of a preserved lemon diced, 2 TBSP. fresh lemon juice, 2 TBSP good smoked paprika, ½ cup chives and 3 TBSP EEVO. You could certainly use this in your weekly roasted chicken dish. Take a whole preserved lemon and insert it into the main cavity of the chicken with a bit of lemon juice and a sprig of thyme and rosemary. Add some some fresh ground pepper and a little salt but not too much as the preserved lemon will be salty. Sheila shared her recipe for tuna fish – it calls for 1 can of tuna(TJ’s yellow fin tuna), 1 avocado, ¼ of a preserved lemon, diced, ½ shallot diced, S&P to taste. Grab some bib lettuce and a hearty roll or sliced artisan bread and indulge.
If you are curious about other uses for these lemons you know what to do…Google it. You can also head up to the Stockton Farm Market early on a Saturday and visit Mediterranean Delicacies and chat with the owners about ways to use these lemons as well as find other North African delights. Check them out at www.mediterranean-delicacy.com.
If you have any “Funky Food Finds” that you want to share with the rest of the eating world, please comment at the end of the article and I will get back to you. Yum it up.