Many folks follow the adage about making lemonade with the lemons life gives them. That’s a fine summertime drink, but as the mercury dips, I make lemon curd to slather on toast or sandwich between chiffon layer cakes. But whether you make lemonade or curd, you’re left with a bunch of spent lemon rinds just screaming for a secondary use.

I’ve written about dropping the rinds into vinegar for a household cleaning solution or into a jar of boiling water to help rid the microwave of that dreadful, lingering burnt popcorn smell. Last week, though, faced with a pile of spent lemons after making curd, I went on the prowl for a way to capture the flavor left in these citrus fruits from afar for my future dining pleasure. That’s when I happened upon the prospect of making shio tare.

A “tare” (pronounced tah-ray) is one of the five building blocks in a bowl of ramen, explains Maine cooking teacher Chris Toy in his new book “Ramen Made Simple: A step-by-step guide.” The other components are the broth, made from pork or chicken bones, or seaweed and dried fish; aromatics such as garlic, ginger or scallions; noodles; and toppings ranging from soy-sauce-soaked six-minute eggs and shredded, braised pork to cured fish and hot sauce.

The dominant flavor in any bowl of ramen, though, comes from one of four types of tare, a few tablespoons of which are ladled into the bowl before any other ingredient, Toy explains. Shoyu tare is based on soy sauce and can include fish paste, mushrooms, mirin, sugar or vinegar. Miso tare is based on fermented bean paste and can include soy sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger and ground red pepper. Kare, or curry tare, stars Japanese powdered curry and includes dashi, soy sauce and mirin. Each of these tares adds a big punch of flavor.

Shio tare, the most subtle of the tares, is based on salt and can include lemons, mirin or seaweed. It elevates the flavors already present in the broth, especially chicken broth.

Toy writes that no two recipes for any tare are likely to be the same. “Noodle houses, or ramen-ya, often develop their own signature tare, keeping the recipes secret.”

Toy’s recipe for shio tare starts with one cup of water and 1/2 ounce of kombu (dried kelp) simmering in a small pot over low heat. You then stir in 1/4 cup kosher salt and the zest and juice of 2 lemons. After the solution cools to room temperature, Toy refrigerates it overnight in the fridge. He then says to strain out the solids, and it’s ready to use.

Simple shio ramen with chicken and scallions. “Shio” means “salt” in Japanese. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Shio tare made from the four spent lemons I had on hand took a bit more time. I cut the rind into 1-inch pieces and combined them with 1/4 cup kosher salt. Then they sat, covered, overnight on the counter. The salt drew out most of the liquid and the flavor from the lemons. I squeezed even more out by wrapping the spent lemon pieces inside cheese cloth and twisting the bundle hard over the bowl. I placed 1/2 ounce of kombu into the salty lemon liquid and let it sit together for another 12 hours. I pulled the kombu from the bowl, combined it with 1 cup of water and simmered the combination over low heat for 20 minutes. I dumped the seaweed broth into the bowl of salty lemon juice and stirred so the warm water melted any flakes of salt. I strained the shio tare into a jar (composting the kombu), and added a tablespoon of mirin to soften its harshness just a bit.

The result was a salty, slightly sour umami bomb. Not only does it bump up my chicken noodle soup to new heights, this shio tare has become the secret ingredient in both my roast chicken gravy and my Asian coleslaw dressing. Next time you have spent lemon rinds on hand, spend some time making shio tare. It will pay you back for your time in spades.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Cabbage, carrot and sautéed maitake mushrooms with Shio Tare and Ginger Dressing Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maitake Mushroom, Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Shio Tare, Ginger and Sesame Oil Dressing

Whether you make cookbook author Chris Toy’s easy shio tare from whole lemons or my more labor-intensive one from spent lemons, this dressing benefits from sitting on the counter for about an hour before you use it. It will hold in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Serves 4

Straining Maine kombu, a type of seaweed, from the shio tare. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

FOR THE DRESSING:
3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
3½ tablespoons shio tare
1½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
2 teaspoons sugar

FOR THE SALAD:
1½ cups torn maitake mushrooms
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup julienned carrots
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped scallions

To make the dressing, combine 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons of the shio tare, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, the grated ginger and the sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it for 30 seconds. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for an hour.

To make the salad, combine the remaining 1/2 tablespoon each of vegetable oil and sesame oil in a large skillet and place the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and stir to coat them in oil. Let the mushrooms cook, undisturbed, until they are nicely browned on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the cooked mushrooms with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon shio tare.

Combine the cabbage, carrots, cilantro, scallions and mushrooms in a large bowl. Toss the slaw with the dressing and serve.


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