The Taste Chase: What’s Golden Like the Sun but Salty Like the Sea? A Funky Food Find

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

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.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”


  1. What a great idea for a column! Have never heard of salted preserved lemons and am also intrigued. Really like the idea of finding single ingredients that can bring something new to hurried (and therefor repetitive) sweeknight cooking without necessarily taking on a new recipe. Thank you!

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