H.B Wilcox Photography / hbrookephoto.com
It seemed to happen overnight: After a couple days steeped in heat and humidity, the rain clouds rolled in with an evening thunderstorm. My garden drank it up. The raised bed of herbs in the backyard seemed to bolt within 24 hours. Parsley. Chives. Big, downy leaves of mint.
I remembered the lemons I preserved last winter: scored, salted, packed in a mason jar and eventually forgotten in the back of my refrigerator — until the season's first herbs reminded me of a favorite recipe: Salsa verde with preserved lemons.
Drizzle the salsa verde over whole roasted fish, grilled chicken or seared steak sliced thinly across the grain. Toss with mustard, mayonnaise and still-warm roasted fingerlings for a summer potato salad. Add to Greek yogurt for an herby accompaniment to crudités, or use as a simple dressing for those tender salad greens beginning to pop up at the farmers market.
The preserved lemon in this salsa verde lends a depth of flavor that’s briny, bright and slightly sweet all at once. The bitterness of the lemon peel is mellowed by a few months' fermentation in salt and lemon juice. Personally, I like how this recipe combines two seasons into one dish — the preserved lemon is a nod to the past winter while all those herbs ring in the upcoming season.
Salsa Verde With Preserved Lemon
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 handful each of parsley, mint, chives and tarragon (but any herbs you have on hand will work)
1 small preserved lemon, rinsed well under cold water and flesh discarded
1 small clove crushed garlic
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
De-stem the herbs and gather them into a tight bundle in the middle of your cutting board. (Side note: Parsley stems, like basil and cilantro stems, are crunchy and delicious — add them to the salsa verde if you don't mind a coarser texture, or save them for salads and marinades).
Run your knife through the bundle once, and then roughly chop until fine. Put the herbs in a medium-size bowl.
Rinse the preserved lemon under cold water and compost any flesh that's still attached to the peel. Finely mince the preserved lemon peel and add it to the herbs.
Crush a small clove of garlic — if you don't have a mortar and pestle, dust the clove with salt and then smash it gently with the blunt end of your knife handle. Add the garlic to the bowl along with the white wine vinegar, olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and salt. Whisk to incorporate.
This salsa verde keeps well for up to one week in the fridge; just be sure to keep the herbs covered with a thin layer of oil. Allow to temper before serving, as the olive oil will solidify when cold.