The Ingredient Padma Lakshmi Called 'The Unsung Hero Of Moroccan Cuisine'

cookbook author Padma Lakshmi
cookbook author Padma Lakshmi - Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Over the course of all her years as the host of "Top Chef," cookbook author and television personality Padma Lakshmi has tried all kinds of dishes. So you might wonder what types of ingredients she has on hand for cooking at home. One of her staples is preserved lemons, an interesting twist on an item many people tend to have on hand. While you might have a fresh lemon or two hanging out in your fruit bowl ready to add a burst of acidity to whatever you're cooking, a jar of preserved lemons isn't as common an ingredient — and according to Lakshmi, it should be.

Speaking with Delish, Lakshmi called preserved lemons "the unsung hero of Moroccan cuisine," where they appear in dishes such as tagines, salads, and stews. And, it's not hard to see why so many dishes from Moroccan, North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisine utilize this versatile ingredient -- it manages to deliver acidity, umami, and saltiness all at the same time. You can buy them already preserved, or if you have a little patience, make your own. It takes about a month of soaking the lemons in salted water to preserve them, and we even have a recipe for easy preserved lemons to get you started in stocking your Padma Lakshmi-approved pantry.

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How To Use Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons in jar
Preserved lemons in jar - Lesyy/Getty Images

While Padma Lakshmi loves to simply toss some preserved lemons in a pan with oil, garlic, and a lean protein for a quick and easy dinner, they pair beautifully with a huge range of dishes. So even if you never try your hand at cooking Moroccan cuisine, you can certainly use preserved lemons. The simple ingredient tastes like a far more complex lemon, delivering those signature fresh citrusy flavor notes paired with salt, acidity, and umami. If a dish would benefit from a bit of acidity, lemon, or just something to add more depth of flavor, preserved lemons should do the trick.

You might try muddling some preserved lemon for a refreshing cocktail or drizzling it on top of yogurt, soup, or roasted vegetables as a way to deliver an intense burst of added flavor. If you're concerned about your dish tasting too salty with the addition of the preserved lemon, you can rinse the lemon or consider only using the rind, as the flesh absorbs a lot more of the briney preserving liquid and can thus be the saltier component of the lemon. And, though they last for quite a while in the pantry, preserved lemons that are looking close to their best by date can even be frozen in ice cube trays for later use in dressings, beverages, and more.

Read the original article on Mashed.