Greens with Preserved Lemons

Greens with Preserved Lemons
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beet greens with preserved lemon
It might not be Moroccan, but it’s good!

You know that when we made the preserved lemons, we had no idea how to use them. Sure, we knew they’d be lemony and salty, but we also knew that they’d acquire new flavors as they ferment. But, really, we just made preserved lemons simply because we’d never had them, and we had an excess of lemons.

With no ideas, we had to improvise. We were getting close to picking up our next CSA share and we had a large bunch of beet greens still sitting in the fridge. Do you think we can make beet greens with preserved lemons? OF course, let’s just scratch up a batch. Now, we did look around, and we found this recipe, which we sort of, kind of, used as a model for our recipe, but, really, this is nothing more than greens with some standard spices and the addition of preserved lemons.

Greens with Preserved Lemons

Yield: 3-4 servings

Greens with Preserved Lemons


  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 bunch greens, washed and chopped
  • 1 piece preserved lemon (about a tablespoon), chopped into 1/4-inch dice

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin seeds, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.

Add greens with 1/4 cup of water. Increase heat to medium-high, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.

Stir in most of the preserved lemon (reserve some for garnish), cover and cook another 5 minutes.

Serve, topped with reserved lemon.

Ingredient discussion:

mise en place
Everything we’ll need for our side dish.

We think that any type of green will work for this dish; just remember that if the stems are tough, you might want to remove them before chopping the leaves. Obviously, preserved lemons are kind of key here, so, if you don’t have them, just make the dish without and call it steamed greens.

Procedure in detail:

cooking spices
You don’t want the spices to burn, so let them just barely sizzle in the pan.

Cook spices. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, — it should barely sizzle — cumin seeds, paprika, and red pepper flakes. If you like spicy, add a lot of flakes; otherwise, keep it under a shake or two. Let the spices cook, swirling the pan or stirring from time to time, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

adding beet greens
It looks like a lot of greens, but they’ll cook down.

Cook greens. Add the greens and about 1/4 cup of water. Use less water if the greens are still wet from washing. You just want enough water to keep the greens from burning, and to create a bit of steam. As you probably know, greens will release liquid as they cook, so you can err on the low side. Increase the heat to medium-high, cover the pan to hold in the steam, and let them cook until mostly tender, stirring occasionally. The length of time will depend on the type of greens; for the beet greens it took about 5 minutes.

Add preserved lemon. Reserve just a bit of the preserved lemon to use as a garnish, stirring the rest into the greens. Once again, cover the pan and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 5 minutes.

Serve. Dish into bowls or onto plates and top with remaining preserved lemon.

Not bad. The greens take on a subtle lemon and fermented (somewhat like olives, but not quite) flavor that goes well with the cumin and red pepper. Next time we might increase the amount of lemon (possibly to twice as much). To be honest, we’re not sure that we tasted the paprika at all, so, if you want to omit, it probably won’t matter. We had it as a simple lunch along with a piece of pita bread and thought it deserved four stars, if for no other reason than it’s just as easy as steamed or sautéed greens, but it changes up the flavor nicely.

Worth the trouble?

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