Sour Power

When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade. Instead, make an extra-dry martini with a twist (so much more refreshing). But hold on – why is it so bad to get a bunch of lemons anyway? Lemons are lovely (just think about that martini) and we can all use a whack of sour in our lives, can’t we? LEMONS 2 Sour is good. Sour makes your lips pucker and wakes your mouth up. Not to mention that thanks to lemons you don’t run around like a toothless sailor with a bad case of rickets. Lemons are essential any time of the year but they’re much appreciated in the cold, dark, dregs of winter when we really need something – dare I say it? – zippy. LEMONS 3 And there is nothing zippier than a jar of preserved lemons. Loved in Middle Eastern cooking, preserved lemons are a must on any shelf. Now you may be lucky enough to have a grocery store near you that sells them but don’t bother. Save your money. Preserved lemons are a dawdle to make. The only caveat is that they should sit in their wee glass jar and steep for about 4 weeks before you use them. However, there are lots of recipes for ‘quick’ preserved lemons although lets be honest, there’s not a lot of preserving going on in a few hours.

How to use them once they’re done? The real question is how not to – they’re incredibly versatile. You use the flesh and can chop that up and add it to stews, tajines, roasted veg, salads – you name it. Of course, never content to let well enough alone, I add chile and other spices to give it an extra kick. So sue me. I can’t help myself.

(Recipe after the break.)HEART HOT LOVE

A year ago today…


If chile is the food of love — and let’s be honest, it is — this is the perfect Valentine’s recipe.

LEMONS 4Preserved Lemons with Chile and Spices

If you can, use unwaxed lemons because be honest, do you really want to eat a bunch of wax? The recipe is for four lemons but you can scale it up or down based on the number of lemons you’ve got. Basic math is that you’ll need a tablespoon of sea salt and the juice of a lemon for each lemon you’re using.

4 unwaxed lemons
4 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 cascabel chile (rehydrated with hot water)
Sprinkle of cumin and coriander seed
Juice of 4 lemons

LEMONS 1Get a jar that’s just large enough to fit your lemons. Fill the jar with boiling water, let it sit for a minute then empty the water out. Let the jar dry and it’s ready to go.

Wash the lemons and make four lengthwise cuts from the top almost all the way to the bottom. Don’t cut all the way through – you want the lemon to stay in one piece. Stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt each. Place the lemons into the jar – squeeze them in tight. Sprinkle a bit of cumin and coriander onto the lemons and add the cascabel chile. Squeeze in the lemon juice (the juice of one lemon for each lemon you’re storing) and close the lid. Store for about 4 weeks before using.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

It used to be when you ordered a burger you knew what you were getting: ground beef on a bun, cheese (preferably highly processed and day-glo orange) optional. But things aren’t so simple any more. Now we’ve got buffalo burgers, venison, turkey, elk, salmon, veggie – even kangaroo – all taking on the burger mantle.


Is that a bad thing? Heck no. If some foodie fuddy-duddies want to get all purist about it, then let them. They can argue that the only real burger is a hamburger (funny, don’t remember any ham in a burger…). It doesn’t mean we have to follow suit.

Because the fact is, the alternatives are pretty darn tasty. I’ll talk turkey in a future post but for now let us turn our eyes and mouth to lamb. Lamb makes an awesome burger. It’s got a distinctive taste that handles frying (or grilling) beautifully and marries well with assertive spices. And at the Chile Trail, we love assertive.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to seasoning, but for this recipe, we’ve come up with a killer combo of Southwestern meets Middle Eastern. The resulting burgers are moist, full of flavor and disturbingly addictive. We make them small then serve them on a corn tortilla with roasted peppers, arugula and a dollop of hummus. But you know, go crazy – slap it on a flat bread or pita, put it on a bun, crumble some feta cheese on top. At the Chile Trail if it tastes great then it’s never wrong.

 Spicy Lamb Burgers

Serves 3-4

I roast my own peppers because it’s so easy and the taste is awesome. I like to use long, mild peppers. Give them a rinse, then slice them into quarters lengthways. Remove the seeds and membrane. Toss in olive oil with some S&P and roast them in a hot oven. If you’re time pressed, go for a jar. I won’t tell.

1 lb. ground lamb
2 scallions, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp ancho chile powder
½ tsp cayenne or more to taste
½ tsp cinnamon

To accompany:
• Arugula
• Roasted red peppers
• Hummus
• Corn tortillas or flat bread

Grind the spices in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Feel free to use already ground spices if you want but the flavor won’t be quite as intense and fresh. Add to the lamb along with the scallions and lemon zest. Mix gently – you don’t want to overwork the lamb. Shape into small patties – about the size of silver dollars.


Heat a frying pan and add the lamb patties being careful not to overcrowd. Cook the patties over medium heat for a few minutes on each side and serve hot with accompaniments.