Our preserved lemons are done. And by done I mean ready. Back in January we made two beautiful batches. I was introduced to these a few years ago by Mourad Lahlou. I reviewed his cookbook and subsequently had the great pleasure to interview him as well. We talked about food's ability to bring people together and the role of food and memory, themes that seem to pop up all the time for me.
Before this, I'd never eaten preserved lemons, let alone considered making them, but once I tried them, I was hooked and so was G. In fact, in our house, because he likes them so much, it's now G who takes charge of this process in early January when the citrus is beautiful and lovely. Basically the scrubbed, quartered lemons are packed with kosher salt. They are squeezed into a litre size jar and then topped with lemon juice. Then they sit to and you wait for the magic to happen. The rind becomes beautifully tender and packs a salty, lemony punch. If you have never made preserved lemons, I encourage you to consult Mourad's excellent book for more details about how to prepare them and give it a go.
Now that ours are done we've been digging into them in every possible way. I'm popping a slice of the rind in my gin and tonic, we're using them to top little anchovy toasts, (I prefer white anchovies in vinegar. G prefers the regular kind), and to make magical mouthwatering devilled eggs.
The subject of today's post is born out of a desire to put my preserved lemons to good use and to find yet another way to consume them, although, let's face it, I would be perfectly happy to eat the rinds straight out of the jar whilst watching television.
My inspiration comes from my friend Wendy, with whom I've shared many an interesting food conversation and who in her turn has convinced me to try an ingredient I already love in a new way. Kale.
I love Kale. I do. But up until recently I wasn't big on the raw version. I mean what's the point, when it tastes so good cooked with bacon or chorizo or in a hearty soup? But Wendy turned my head to the raw version when she introduced me to a fabulous kale salad that she featured last summer on her blog, The Garden Next Door, which is all about growing and eating your own produce.
Since I found her salad I've made it in its original format and adapted it many times. And while I'm hardly going to go out and buy myself a kale smoothie, (sorry juicers - I don't get it), this salad has opened my eyes to a new way to enjoy kale. It's a salad that is extremely versatile with a nut component and a dried fruit component that can be easily switched out with other options. My desire to adapt it has very little to do with the quality of the original which is excellent but more to do with what might be in my cupboard at any given time. Wendy's original version calls for dates and almonds but I've used dried cranberries, raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and so on.
For today's version, I'm keeping the dates, substituting the lemon juice for the liquid from the preserved lemons and using a little more honey and a little more heat than the original recipe, to counteract the salty punch of the lemons. Finally I'm adding a finishing touch of sweetness with the addition of honey-kissed walnuts.
I love to make this salad any time, but it's perfect for a pot-luck or party because so much of the preparation can be done the day before.
So that's the story of how we got to here, by sharing stories and learning from others, checking our cupboard stores and finding out what works. So with that in mind, I give you the following.
Kale Salad with Dates, Candied Walnuts & Preserved Lemons
3 TBSP preserving liquid from preserved lemons
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp honey (plus additional below)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt to taste
2 bunches kale
3 TBSP olive oil
4 quarters preserved lemons, rind only
40 grams (1/2 cup) walnuts
1 TBSP honey
8 dates, pitted and chopped
70 grams (1/2 cup) finely grated parmesan
1. Prepare the dressing.
In a small bowl, combine the preserving liquid, shallot, honey and the red pepper flakes. At this point, taste the liquid and if required, add additional kosher salt to taste. The preserving liquid is already quite salty so you may find you won't need any additional salt. Set the dressing aside.
2. Prepare the kale.
Begin by washing the kale and removing the central rib. Chop the kale into bite-size pieces and make sure it is well dried. Yes, I often chop the kale first and then spin it in a salad spinner to dry. It seems to be easier to handle this way. Now tip the kale into a large bowl along with the olive oil. Now massage it. Yes massage it. Now repeat. You can read all about what Wendy says about massaging and it's true. It helps to soften up the kale and makes it more palatable in its raw format.
3. Prepare the preserved lemons.
Separate the rind from each of the lemon quarters with a sharp knife. Discard the flesh of the lemon or set aside for another use. Slice the rind into thin strips or dice finely as you prefer.
4. Dress the salad and refrigerate.
Combine the kale, dressing and preserved lemons and refrigerate for at least one hour. Ideally make the salad to this point the day before you wish to serve and it will be beautifully flavourful and the kale will have softened up nicely by the time you are ready to eat it.
5. Prepare the nuts
Chop the nuts into small pieces, quarters should do it. In a dry, hot frying pan, stirring all the time so they do not burn, toast the walnuts until golden. Remove the pan from heat, add 1 generous TBP honey and stir rapidly to coat while the pan is still hot. Tip the nuts out on to a sheet of parchment and set aside to cool.
6. Finish the salad.
Add the cooled walnuts, dates,and parmesan to salad and toss it gently until it all leaves are thoroughly coated.
Enjoy. I hope you will try it and please let me know in the comments how it works for you or what other ingredients you would make this with.
Hope you are all having a lovely weekend.
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