Today’s Birthday Week indulgence is homemade comfort food that brings together two recent Waste-Less Wednesday ingredients: lemons and herbs. Remember those 7-Day Preserved Lemons? After a week of climbing the kitchen stepladder to shake those babies up, it’s time to crack them open and take them for a taste test!
Opening the mason jar of marinated lemons after it spent a week in the surprisingly warm upper-reaches of my kitchen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they actually taste ok, or would the flavors be off? Would this be another kitchen experiment to hit the compost bin?
The first bite was soft, tart, and salty. The rinds and flesh had softened, but weren’t mooshy, with the lemon flesh coming away from the soft rinds easily. The flavor was definitely Meyer — lemon with a hint of tangerine — and tart, but not puckeringly so. Ooooh, this was gonna be good! (And a little weird when I realized that I was eating wedges of lemon!) I almost forgot the final step of the process, which was to cover the lemons in olive oil to help preserve them in the fridge. So, now I have these salty, somewhat-tart, soft lemons dipped in olive oil. Nothin’ bad about that!
In general, I wouldn’t eat these preserved lemons out of the jar, but I could think of all the ways that they would be a flavorful accent to pasta, fish, or a composed salad. What to make first? I love the idea of gremolata — a classic Italian condiment of fresh lemon zest, parsley, and garlic — but with a twist. When making the classic version, you’ll get the best results when all ingredients are freshest. But what if your ingredients aren’t super-fresh? How about a variation that brings together roasted garlic, preserved lemons, and minced parsley?
Using preserved lemons means that you can use the whole lemon, not just the zest. Roasting garlic cloves lets you extend the life of your garlic, giving it a sweet but complex flavor and soft texture that makes it more versatile. And even less-than-fresh parsley has something to add to this combo! (I’ll confess that I keep my parsley in a ziplock bag for two weeks or more, weeding out the <ahem> discolored or floppy branches. It’s not always pretty, but I’m doing what I can to get the most out of a bunch of parsley.) And the best part is that you can prepare all the components in advance and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to put them together!
So, inspired by the classic gremolata, here’s my recipe for a homemade mid-week meal that is flavorful, comforting, and indulgent.
Recipe: Soba Noodles with 650 Gremolata
Yield: 1 serving
This pasta is on the lighter side and perfect for a weeknight spring meal or weekend lunch. The recipe makes enough for one person. Double up if you’re cooking for two (or just want some leftovers). Scale up if you’re cooking for a crowd. Feel free to make adjustments to the parsley, garlic, or lemon or amount of pasta based on your taste and preferences. Add a seasonal green salad with grated carrots or tomato wedges to round out the meal.
Ingredients (per serving):
1 wedge preserved lemon, chopped finely
4 large roasted garlic cloves*, peeled or removed from their papery casings
2 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauté pan
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 – 3 tablespoons shredded cheese (Asiago, Parmesan, or a blend)
2 – 2¼ ounces soba noodles
Salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: 1 – 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
* To roast garlic: You can roast garlic in a toaster oven or toss it into the baking dish when making roasted vegetables in a full-sized oven. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the top off a head of garlic and peel away a couple of the head’s outer paper-like layers. Place the garlic head in the center of a 5″ square piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil (don’t douse it) and then fold the foil around the garlic head, enclosing it. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cloves are soft enough to pierce with a sharp knife or skewer.
What you need:
Small sauté pan
4-quart pot for the noodles
- Start heating the water for the noodles while you make the gremolata.
Review the package directions for the amount of water to boil. By the time you’ve made the gremolata, the pasta should be ready to go into the pot.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the chopped preserved lemon and sauté for 2-3 minutes until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Place the garlic cloves in the medium bowl and crush them with the back of a spoon until you have a garlic paste.
- Add the olive oil to the garlic paste and mix together using a spoon or fork.
- Add the parsley, sautéed lemon, and roasted red pepper, mixing to combine. Set aside while you make the noodles.
- Follow the package directions for making soba noodles.
Make sure that you drain the noodles well, removing as much water as possible after cooking.
- Add the noodles to the gremolata mixture, tossing to coat the pasta thoroughly.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn out into a serving bowl or dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
- Want to add to the indulgence? Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.