A gift of a pretty jar holding a preserved lemon should thrill any experienced or adventurous cook. Salt-cured whole lemons preserved in extra-virgin olive oil are a staple in almost all Mediterranean cuisines. They are used to season slow-cooked dishes like tagines, and diced preserved lemon and its oil can be used to marinate or garnish grilled meats and seafood as well as feta and other dry cheeses. In Greek tavernas small wedges of preserved lemon are served with drinks, along with slivers of dry, aged sheep’s milk cheeses, olives, and flatbreads. The oil alone is a perfect addition to marinades and vinaigrettes. Whole cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds can be found in South Asian markets, natural-foods stores, and online. Preserved lemons improve with age and should stay good for about six months. It is essential to cover the lemons by at least a half an inch of olive oil in order to store the jar safely at room temperature.
Notes: Do not freeze or ship.
Wrapping it Up: The lemons, spice, and rich green olive oil provide about all the good looks any small gift needs. But a great looking label and a few recipes would complete this gift nicely. If you have good computer skills, you might consider creating a booklet of recipes (you can search online or in any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cookbook) to accompany the lemons. You should include a note with storage instructions, too: The lemons can be stored at room temperature, but as they are used, the jar should be replenished with olive oil to keep the remaining lemons covered and fresh. See Resources for information on free downloadable labels.