One secret to making interesting plant-based dishes is to include quick-pickled or fermented ingredients — miso, kimchi, vinegar, and such — for their ability to add depth and brightness. Preserved lemons, a staple of Middle Eastern and Moroccan cooking, are a champion of this category. They cut through richness like nobody’s business while also bringing salt to the party, which makes them an all-in-one seasoning powerhouse.
Without preserved lemons, I’m afraid, the zucchini, pea, and spinach salad from Sabrina Ghayour’s new cookbook might be ho-hum, a jumble of grated zucchini, peas, and baby spinach that no amount of plain salt could make interesting. But its dressing, made from a whole preserved lemon (rind, flesh, and all) and olive oil — plus a little crushed toasted coriander seed and a few generous grinds of black pepper — turn it positively irresistible. A little feta and some pumpkin seeds offer creamy richness and crunch.
If you haven’t made preserved lemons before, it’s high time you got into the habit. You’ll be happy to have them around (pro tip: try them in your next batch of hummus), and they keep for months in the fridge. But because they’ve gotten easier to find in stores — in jars or sometimes offered in bulk at the olive bar — you don’t have to wait for your own to cure before making this salad.
4 to 6 servings
Preserved lemon gives this salad a welcome dose of sharpness. You won’t need to add salt because the lemon is plenty salty, as is the feta.
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 whole preserved lemon, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total), coarsely grated
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds, for garnish
1. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook until just tender; 2 minutes if fresh, and 3 to 4 minutes if frozen. Drain the peas, rinse them under cold water, then drain well.
2. Toast the coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 1 minute, until they become fragrant. Use the flat of a chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle to crush them lightly, then transfer to a mini food processor. Add the preserved lemon, oil, and a few grinds of pepper; process until smooth. The dressing may taste like it will be overwhelmingly pungent, but the water content of the zucchini will temper it.
3. Transfer the dressing to a mixing bowl; add the zucchini, spinach, cooked peas, and feta. Toss gently with tongs or your clean hands until the vegetables are evenly coated.
4. To serve, divide among bowls or arrange on a platter. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top.
— Adapted from “Bazaar: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes,” by Sabrina Ghayour (Mitchell Beazley, 2019)