lemons copyTender, mellow, tart, and chewy—preserved lemons can make a normal meal burst with sudden flavor. Via the magic of preserving, the skin of the lemon becomes the tastiest part! But the process takes time. Time YOU don’t have. What to do? Fake the month-long preservation process in your freezer, overnight. Stuffing fresh, whole lemons with ample kosher salt and freezing them tenderizes the rind and infuses the fruit with salty goodness. Just pull out the pulp, mince the supple rind, and sprinkle it on pretty much anything: rice and beans, curries, tofu scramble. Or fold them into this cheery chickpea salad loaded with Mediterranean flavor.

FREEZER FAUX PRESERVED LEMONS

Sweeter, thin-skinned, fragrant Meyer lemons (in season through March) are ideal, but even regular super-market lemons are enlivened by this speedy preservation method. Just make sure to reach for organic fruit, as you’ll mostly be eating the skin.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. small, thin-skinned organic lemons (6 or 7)
½ cup bottled or freshly squeezed
lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) 2/3 cup kosher salt

DIRECTIONS
Firmly roll each lemon a few times on a hard surface to soften; remove any stems. Use a knife to slice each lemon into quarters, lengthwise, starting from one end and stopping about ½" from the other end; the quarters should re-main connected on the bottom. Stuff about a tablespoon of salt into the center of each lemon and generously rub the outside with salt. Pack the lemons, the remaining salt, and lemon juice into a 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag. Firmly press out all the air and seal; prevent leaking by double bagging. Freeze for at least 12 hours.

When ready to use a lemon, remove from the freezer and thaw until soft enough to slice. (To speed the process, place the securely zipped bag in a bowl of hot water.) Gently rinse the lemon with water and remove the seeds and most of the pulp. Mince the softened, preserved rind. Pack thawed, unused lemons into a mason jar, and store them in the fridge. In time, they’ll develop the complexity true preserved lemons have. Use within six months for best flavor.  

PRESERVED LEMON AND OLIVE CHICKPEA SALAD

This dish’s creamy chopped chickpeas, salty-sweet preserved lemons, roasted peppers, and briny olives create an explosion of Mediterranean flavor. Eat with crackers, wrapped in romaine lettuce or collard leaves, or slathered on crisp hot toast.

INGREDIENTS
14-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 roasted red bell pepper, seeds and core removed, finely chopped¼ cup kalamata olives, pits removed and roughly chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ preserved lemon, rind only, minced 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh  oregano or thyme
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional) Salt and ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
In a mixing bowl, lightly mash the chickpeas with a fork. Add all of the remaining ingredients, mash together, taste, and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Cover and chill for 20 minutes, eat with something crunchy, enjoy your life.

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By Terry Hope Romero
Photograph by Vanessa Rees

This recipe originally appeared in the February/March print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today


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