When I was twenty-two, I took my first job in the city at a small publishing house in Chelsea. I hated it. The hours were long, the paychecks were small, and the work involved shuffling papers to and from different desks and running errands for the publisher's dog (that's another story for another day). But I kept the job, rationalizing that it gave me a reason to be in New York, a purpose for staying there other than simply indulging a dream.
In retrospect, the only thing I really liked about the job was the lunch break I took each afternoon (I probably should have been busy working at my desk, but that's in the past). On most days, I spent the entirety of those lunch breaks walking, desperate to escape my desk and to absorb the sights of the city that was still so unfamiliar to me, and yet that I loved so much. I took time to slowly walk through Union Square, studying all the changing bins of produce at the Green Market. I walked and analyzed the way more seasoned city dwellers carried themselves, tucking their copies of the Times beneath their arms as they hustled across the crowded crosswalks (that was a decade ago, back when people still read print). I walked and allowed myself to get lost, periodically stopping to peek at a playing card-sized map I kept in my coat pocket, desperate to memorize the names of all the city's different neighborhoods, and the various streets that marked where one ended and another began.
I tried to summon that old, familiar feeling during my walk last week. While I should have been busy sending out tweets about our daily menu, or panicking about our already overwhelming to-do list for the year ahead, or fretting about a million other possible things, I just walked instead. Maybe it was the strong winter sun and the way it cast a beautiful combination of shadows and light across everything. Or the fact that I was feeling nostalgic about the end of one year and the start of a new one. But, all around me, everything looked vibrant for the first time in perhaps too long.
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh rosemary
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 6-8 small lemons, plus one for squeezing
Combine the salt, sugar and herbs in a medium-sized bowl (be sure to remove the herbs from their stems; you can roughly chop them if you like, though I left my in tact). Set aside.
Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush in an effort to remove any wax (since you'll be eating the rind). Cut the ends off the lemons and then slice each lemon into 4 wedges (reserve one lemon for squeezing). Using the tip of a sharp knife, remove any seeds from the fruit's flesh. Add the lemon wedges, a few at a time, to the salt mixture, being sure to thoroughly coat both the flesh and the rind.
Cover the bottom of a clean glass jar with a coating of the salt mixture. Add a layer of lemon wedges to the jar. Top the layer of lemon wedges off with a good sprinkle of the salt mixture. Repeat this process until all lemons are tightly packed in the jar. Slice the reserved lemon in half, remove any seeds, and squeeze the juice from the lemon into the jar. Top the jar off with any remaining salt mixture (if you've used it all, simply add a good shake of plain kosher salt, being sure to completely cover the fruit).
Set the sealed jar in a cool place for 4-5 days (give the jar a gentle shake once or twice a day). At this point, the jar should be filled with a good amount of lemon juice (if it is not, you can simply add some). Move the sealed jar to the fridge, and keep it there for one month before using the preserved lemons. When you are ready to use the lemons, remove the wedges from the jar and rinse off the salt. Both the rind and the pulp are delicious. Place the sealed jar back in the fridge, where it will keep well for about 6 months.
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