Caitlin Bensel
Active Time
45 MIN
Total Time
16 HR 45 MIN
Yield
Serves : 4

When I moved to California, one of the first things I did was to run out and buy my very first citrus tree—a little dwarf lemon tree—which I promptly popped into a pot on my patio. A few years later, we moved to a house with a backyard, and I decided to grow as many edible plants as possible to provide fruit, vegetables, and herbs to liven up my cooking projects. Things I couldn’t imagine growing were now possible, from passion fruit to pomegranates. But first and foremost on my garden agenda was more citrus, especially limes, which I cook with quite frequently.

I have a special fondness for limes; their intense aroma is incredibly energizing. Trapped beneath thin green skin, their sour juice brightens the flavor of any dish. In India where I grew up, limes are a popular source of acidity in cooking; they’re also often cut and pickled in oil and spices and left out in the sun to mature. 

If not exactly a flavor match, those sun-cured limes remind me of the preserved lemons that are so central to Moroccan cuisine. I’d already tried preserving lemons, leaning on Claudia Roden’s technique in her cookbook Arabesque, and was delighted with the floral and pungent results. But I wanted to speed up the weeks-long process, so I turned to my favorite citrus—thin-skinned limes—for inspiration.

Typically when citrus is preserved, the fruit is cut and rubbed with salt before sitting for several weeks to mature. I reduced the long wait by taking advantage of heat to hasten the softening of the skin; I also pre-soaked the fruit with a bit of salt to remove the bitterness. Once the limes are ready—overnight instead of weeks later—all you have to do is rinse them well to remove the excess salt. Then they are ready to be chopped and folded into salad dressings, pureed and blended into mayonnaise, or used to spice up a roasted vegetable side dish, like this beet salad. I stir bits of the salty, tart lime peels into Greek yogurt that will serve as a bed for the juicy roasted beets, then I double down on the lime flavor by sprinkling a little extra over the top. The bright, bold flavor of the preserved limes is the perfect foil for lifting up the earthy flavor of beets. 

You probably don’t have your own lime tree outside your back door, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing this flavor phenomenon. These briny bites of sunshine are the perfect way to perk up your plate, no matter where you are.   

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the preserved limes

Halve limes, and discard any seeds. Cut lime halves into quarters; cut each quarter in half. Place limes in a medium bowl, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup salt. Cover and let stand 4 hours. Rinse limes under cold water, and discard any salt or liquid left behind.

Step 2    

Place rinsed limes in a medium saucepan; add 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup water, and remaining 1/4 cup salt. Cook over low, stirring occasionally, until limes are completely tender and liquid has reduced by almost half, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer mixture to a sterile jar. Add remaining 1/4 cup lime juice, seal, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (When ready to use limes, rinse lime pieces well under cold water, and cut as desired.) Preserved limes may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

Step 3    Make the roasted beet salad

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beets and garlic in a medium bowl. Add oil, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet, and roast in preheated oven until tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Step 4    

Whisk together 1 tablespoon chopped preserved lime, yogurt, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Step
Step 5    

Spread yogurt mixture on a serving plate. Place roasted beets in center with any leftover pan juices. Garnish with parsley and 1/2 teaspoon chopped preserved limes, if desired.

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