Photo by achichi/Flickr CC
Two years ago, the only time I'd have eaten pickled (or preserved) lemons was if I was eating out at a Moroccan restaurant. But as I've come to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of these--one of the like 22 really great things we're getting from the Mahjoub family--I've started to use them with ever greater frequency to the point where they've actually evolved into a steady staple in my kitchen. They're just one of those things you can keep in the cabinet and add to all sorts of dishes whenever you want to contribute a little extra character to your meal.
If you're not already familiar with them, pickled lemons are a staple of North African cookery. People who've traveled to Morocco will certainly have had them there, and it turns out folks in Tunisia rely them on as well. The pickled lemons are the latest--after the harissa, couscous, wild orange marmalade, sauces, capers, olives, etc.--of their foods to catch my attention.
I want to say that the lemons are like a second sun to Tunisian cooking, coming up quietly, but actually really brightly, behind that spicy red, sun-dried harissa that I'm so hooked on. Majid Mahjoub says, "Preserved lemon and harissa are the principal protagonists of the Tunisian cuisine! Both of them have their roots deeply in our nation's heart and soul!" Either way, the point is that while harissa is clearly the lead, preserved lemons aren't exactly laying around waiting for life to happen to them. They're a pretty prominent piece of Tunisian cooking and their tart, terrific brightness brings a really unique bit of flavor to anything you add them to.