It was last June when I first learned about dried limes. There was a story in the NY Times about their use in cuisine from Iran and Iraq, exactly how they’re used both whole and ground, and their unique, complex flavor of citrus with a slight funky edge. I immediately called Phoenicia, our nearby Middle Eastern market, learned they did have dried limes for sale, and ran straight there to get them. Dried limes are just that, whole, dehydrated, sun-dried limes. You should wash them before using them. Then, you can either pierce them and drop them whole into soups or beans as they cook, or you can chop them and then grind them in a spice grinder or coffee mill. If you grind the chopped pieces, you should shake the ground lime through a sieve to remove any large, hard bits. I tried two of the recipes from the NY Times article, the lentil salad and the broiled shrimp, but I never got around to mentioning them here. I recall that for the lentil dish, the dried limes were pierced and placed in the pot with the lentils while they cooked. The flavor they imparted was very subtle, and if I hadn’t known I’d used the dried limes I don’t think I would have picked out their flavor in the dish. For the shrimp, a paste was made with ground dried lime, other spices, and olive oil, and that paste was used as a rub on the shrimp. In that dish, the flavor from the limes was present, interesting, and enjoyable. I intended to try that again and grill the shrimp rather than broil it, but I just never got to it. All of this explains why I was so eager to try this quinoa salad from the book Plenty. I already had dried limes in my pantry, and I couldn’t wait to use them again.
There are a several great-looking mixed grain salads in that book. Here, quinoa, wild rice, and basmati rice were mixed with roasted chunks of sweet potato, herbs, sliced green onions, and feta. I had just received sweet potatoes and green onions from Farmhouse Delivery, so I was set. I bought Canadian Lake wild rice, which is a long variety that requires about 55 minutes to cook. I cooked it in a large saucepan with plenty of extra water, and added the basmati rice after about 15 minutes of simmering. When the two grains were cooked, they were drained and placed in a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, sweet potatoes were peeled, chopped into cubes and roasted with a coating of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. For the last 10 minutes of roasting time, the quinoa was cooked in simmering water, and then it was drained and added to the rices. Dried limes were chopped, ground, and sieved, and two tablespoons were used in the salad. Last, olive oil was heated in a small skillet, sliced garlic was added followed by chopped sage and oregano, and I was lucky to still have some sage and oregano in my herb garden after our cold spell. The oil with garlic and herbs was poured over the grain mixture followed by the roasted sweet potatoes and the oil left on the baking sheet, the sliced green onion, a little lemon juice, some shredded mint, the ground dried lime, and cubes of feta. Everything was carefully mixed so as not to break up the sweet potato or feta.
This was such a pleasant mix of nutty, chewy grains, and the garlic, onion, and herbs hit all the right flavor notes. The dried lime with its concentrated citrus was well-matched with the sweet potato and feta. You could easily add more of one thing or less of another here, but I wouldn’t change a thing next time I make this. It was a meal of a salad, and since it makes a nice, large quantity, it will be several meals. I’m already looking forward to the next one for lunch.