Roasted Beet Salad with Greek Yogurt and Preserved Limes
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.