sesame cured broccoli and shrimp with preserved lemon
Melissa Clark wrote about garlicky sesame-cured broccoli ages ago. It is such a winner. One of those odd, offbeat recipes with an unprepossessing ingredient list—broccoli and cumin, big whoop, right?—it yields a finished result that is ridiculously, transcendentally good. I make gigantic vats of it every once in a while, and we keep it in the fridge to munch on for days. Dang, it’s good.
Recipes after the jump.
Sesame Cured Broccoli
There is a kind of crazy alchemy that happens here between the sesame, the garlic, and the toasted cumin. The finished salad tastes of all those things, but none too strongly. The original NYT recipe is a good starting point; I like to add more vinegar to balance it and a lot more spice.
Cut two pounds of broccoli crowns into bite-size florets, chopping any stemmy bits up into a 1/4”-1/2” dice. Toss with two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a generous three-finger pinch of kosher salt.
Chop four (or five or six) fat garlic cloves and warm in a quarter cup of good olive oil. Add two tablespoons of whole cumin. Heat the oil until the garlic is coloring and the cumin seeds are starting to pop.
Off the heat, stir in a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes. Pour over the broccoli and toss. Taste and do any gross corrections needed. Let the salad sit at room temperature or in the fridge for at least an hour; taste again and fine-tune the flavor balance.
This salad keeps for days and only improves with age. It is an excellent side for all kinds of things; it makes a good picnic salad; it’s great tossed with cold pasta; it’s a fantastic lunch with oil-packed tuna and white beans. It’s not distinctly “ethnic” tasting, so it goes with everything. It’s the best.
Shrimp with preserved lemon
This is the simplest, summeriest shrimp. Chop a couple pieces of preserved lemon into a fine-grained paste; mix with a generous tablespoon of good sweet paprika and a tablespoon of olive oil. Coat shrimp in the mixture; skewer and broil or grill.
I like to keep preserved lemon around, but when a new jar is still cooking or I’ve been too lazy to make a new one, I make do with faux preserved lemon. It is nowhere near as complex or floral or delicious as the real thing—I would not use to flavor a whole tagine, for example—but it can stand in where you just want some bitter citrus. To make, cut a whole scrubbed lemon into thin rounds; just barely cover with water and add a tablespoon of salt. Simmer until the peels are very soft and the pith is starting to go translucent, about 15 minutes.