Spice markets intimidate me. I’ve always been both fascinated and overwhelmed by the variety of spices available in them. I feel like when you go to a spice shop, you kind of need to have a certain level of confidence and know what you’re going to buy. I’m guessing that most people who work at a spice shop are probably tired of ‘tasters’ and inquisitively annoying people like myself, so, going in, it’s best to have a game plan, and an exit strategy, if not you might end up buying herbs and spices you’ve never heard of and will likely never use!
I’ve done my homework and I’m here to save the day. I’m going do you a favor and introduce you to a delicious and natural flavor enhancer that you probably have never seen, known existed, or cooked with. Or you may have seen it and wondered what it is and how to cook with it. It’s dried lime, or loomi/lumi, as it’s often referred to. Loomi are not the prettiest things to look at. They look like dry, dark, and shriveled up limes, and because they’ve been dehydrated, they’re light and super hard. But it’s definitely a case of; don’t judge a book by its cover, because when loomi is added to stews, rice, soups, and any type of protein, it REALLY elevates the taste profile of the dish, especially the ‘tang’ element.
Dishes from the levant area don’t traditionally use lumi (dried limes) in their kitchen but Iraq, most Gulf countries, and Persian kitchens, especially in herb stews like ghorme sabzi, are where you would see loomi being used the most. I personally love to use it in rice and vegetable dishes and on fish and seafood. You poke and pierce the hard shell of the dried lime with a knife and cook it with the food. It will impart a deliciously subtle but smoky-tanginess to the food – much different than the tang of fresh lime or lemons. Alternatively, you can pulverize loomi in an electric spice mill and sprinkle the lumi powder over chicken or over fish, like I like to do. I simply pan roast my fish fillets with some olive oil, a nob of butter, garlic, and chopped-up cilantro. I spice my fish with a liberal sprinkle of: loomi powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. I final squeeze of lemon and you have a yummy complex lemon fish dish. The dried lime keeps well in a closed container and even longer in the fridge.
Vegetable Pilaf with Loomi
Prep Level: Easy-medium
1 ½ cups white or brown rice preferably organic
2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup frozen and thawed out mixed vegetable of your choice
1 anchovy fillet (optional)
1 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, thinly cut or pressed
1 tomato, finely diced
2 tablespoons (heaping) of chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon all spice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ - 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 loomi, poked and pierced with a knife.
Heat the broth till it begins to boil. In a separate nonstick medium sized pot, and on high heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, and everything except the rice and vegetables. Stir everything till fragrant and the onions begin to caramelize slightly, around 10 minutes. Add the rice and vegetables and mix everything till the vegetables are mixed in with the rice and everything is coated with all the spices. Add the hot broth, stir the rice, and bring the heat down to the lowest setting. Try to push the 2 loomi inside the rice as much as you can. Cover the pot and let the rice cook, around 35 minutes. Fluff up the cooked rice with a fork right before serving and serve alongside the fish. The cooked and now tender loomi is usually discarded but I like to nibble on it with my rice (watch out for any pips). Enjoy.