This one is for my sister. She e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago raving about a salad that she ate at a restaurant near where she lives in Maryland. She described it as raw kale with a dressing made of buttermilk and preserved lemon and topped with salty granola and sunflower seeds, and asked if I could tell her how to make it. Of course, whoo hoo, my favorite thing to do!
Ingredient detective. Actually, this was all from my imagination since I didn’t actually taste the salad. Therefore, my opinion goes only so far. Everything can be adjusted for taste (saltier, less salty, sweeter, etc.).
The chief challenge for my sister is preserved lemons. This is not a problem for me, since I love this essential ingredient in Moroccan food (and recently in Dorie Greenspan’s use of preserved lemon in her twist on classic French cuisine). I preserve lemon for the pantry regularly (it’s so easy). So knowing that my sister is perennially on a tight budget and shouldn’t be spending $8-12 on a jar of the stuff, I am assuming she can hold out for this salad for a few weeks and make her own (recipe below). A preserved lemon “ah ha” moment for me came a couple of weeks ago while I was making chicken stew à la Dorie, for which she suggested discarding the pulp from preserved lemons to focus on the fermented peel. Discard what? Me? Now this becomes a “waste-not-want-not” proposition. Of course there are good uses for lemon pulp and the unctuous juices. Until that moment, I thought those were equally the point of preserved lemons.
I made a few trials of the dressing. One with preserved lemon pulp and buttermilk alone (too thin), one with preserved lemon pulp and crushed garlic and buttermilk (better flavor, too thin) and another with the addition of a little mayonnaise, which turned out to be the winner since it counterbalances the thickness of kale leaves. For those grossed out by mayonnaise, an emulsion of the core ingredients with olive oil works fine though is less creamy. Your taste.
In terms of technique, one thing I do with kale, and any other tough-leafed green, is to take a small amount of dressing (or just oil and salt) and massage it into the leaves. Let them sit for a bit before adding the rest of the dressing to moisten the salad.
I know, this is a long-winded explanation of a simple salad. But thanks to my sister, it’s my new fave: kale, scrubbed with a little buttermilk dressing, doused with a little more and served sprinkled with savory granola made of oats and sunflower seeds. Love it. Go for it sis. I’ll bring you a jar of preserved lemons the next time we get together. Love, K.
Buttermilk and Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing
½ c buttermilk
2 tbsp (or more to taste) liquid and pulp from preserved lemons
Optional: ½ tsp finely diced rind of preserved lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp mayonnaise (or more if you want it thicker; alternatively use olive oil)
Mix all ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes for the flavors to become acquainted.
1 c rolled oats, preferably organic
½ c sunflower seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds (not hulled)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and spread on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once or twice, until browned, about 15-20 minutes. Watch it once it starts to brown since it will go quickly from that point on.
Preserved Lemons (for one 8-12-ounce jar)
4 lemons, preferably organic and unwaxed
1½ – 2 tbsp salt (smaller amount for an 8-ounce jar, greater for the 12-ounce jar)
If you’re using waxed lemons, wash them in warm water, scrubbing the surfaces and let them dry for several hours or overnight. (You don’t want the residual water to infuse the preserved lemons since it could create mold.) You are going to need 1-2 lemons for the jar and the rest for juice.
Slice the lemons for the jar pole to pole in quarters or sixths depending on the size of your lemons and jar. Place them in the jar, add the salt, and fill the jar with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cap the jar tightly and turn it upside down and then right side up to distribute the salt.
Cure the lemons for 3-4 weeks at room temperature, turning the jar upside down and then right side up every day that you can remember. The liquid will turn syrupy and the lemons will be soft and pungent. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Preserved lemons keep for many months, even a year.