Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Life (or friends) Gives You Lemons

Make Lemon Polenta Pound Cake with Lemon Curd.
This time of year, everybody is looking to get rid of their citrus. (See the Resources In The Valley page if you need to rid yourself of some)
Our friend Charlie recently brought us some lemons from his tree. Lemons are one of my all-time favorite ingredients for desserts and savory cooking. We have just one little Meyer lemon tree in a pot which was, again, prolific with blossoms this year, but only time will tell if it produces lemons. To my disappointment, last year, it produced none.
Usually I prefer to bake and prepare desserts with Meyer, and cook with Eureka or Lisbon, but since Charlie brought us Eureka's and I needed lemon zest, I used them with some delicious results. Meyer Lemons, in comparison to Eureka and Lisbon, are very thin skinned, are juicier, and sweeter and less acidic. Sometimes, you would swear they are oranges because of their color. Eureka and Lisbon are much more tart and their zest can't be beat when you need essence of lemon. Use a micro-plane to get the wonderful, aromatic lemon zest with all the fresh oil and none of the bitter white rind.
With these lemons, I decided to make an old favorite pound cake recipe; Lemon Polenta Pound Cake with Lemon Curd.
This is a dense, flavorful poundcake, with the surprising crunchy mouth-feel thanks to the Polenta. Paired with the silky sweet-tart lemon curd, it is lemon heaven. The poundcake isn't too sweet, which is a good thing, because the lemon curd packs a sweet-tart wallup.

3 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Evaporated Milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the ends of a medium-size loaf pan with nonstick spray, then line the sides and bottom with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda; Stir to blend. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix well.
Add the lemon juice and milk alternately with the dry ingredients and mix until just until moistened.
Carefully fold in the egg whites.
Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool 15 minutes in the pan, then invert on a cooling rack, remove parchment paper and cool completely.
Serves 12
Lemon Curd
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs.
cook over medium-low heat whisking vigorously and continuously until the curd is thick enough to hold a ripple mark when the whisk is lifted from the curd and the first bubbles appear on the surface (this should take about 6-7 minutes)
Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until melted and glossy. Cover the curd using plastic wrap spread directly over the surface of curd to prevent a skin from forming.
Chill for a minimum of 2 hours before using or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Makes approx. 1-1/2 cups

Monday, April 5, 2010

..and now Grapefuit Clafoutis!

If you live anywhere in the Coachella Valley, there is no mistaking that it is citrus season. The fragrance of the citrus blossoms heavy in the air and the buzz of the bees busily pollinating each blossom reminds us that spring is definitely here.

We are also reminded of the season by the amount of citrus that we have hanging on the trees. In our case, we've stripped the orange trees in January and February, but we still have many grapefruits.

Certainly we can juice them, but I just received this month's Vegetarian Times magazine, which uses the juicy, sweet Ruby Red Grapefruit as an ingredient for a dessert for which I wouldn't have otherwise considered using Grapefruit. Clafoutis!

Clafoutis (pronounced -klä-fū-tē') is traditional French dessert made with a layer of fresh cherries or other fruit topped with a thick custard batter. It is then baked, dusted with powdered sugar, and typically served lukewarm or at room temperature. I was first introduced to this dessert years ago during trip to Paris. Every patisserie and metro station seemed to have them in the case. I may have had one or two pieces during that visit. Thankfully we walked a lot in that magnificent city.

I have made Clafoutis before with Blackberries, Apricots and, the traditional, Cherry. This was the first dessert I made to impress Colin when we first starting dating. It is now one of his favorite desserts as well, and I usually make it for him on his birthday. I guess he liked it enough to stick around. My favorite is made with Bing Cherries when they are in season. But Grapefruit Clafoutis? Can you do that? I'm sure the hard-core "Clafoutisists" would not be amused. Will I have a new favorite? Let's find out.

By the way, if you have citrus you are not going to use, consider donating it to the local shelters or organizations around town. They will be happy to take it off your hands and it won't go to waste. An easy way to give to the community. Hidden Harvest heads a great collection effort with lots of drop off location options. Check them out at:

New Favorite, or not?

Although I was skeptical, I was pleased with the tangy-sweet intensity of the Grapefruit against the sweet and more subtle egg custard. It made for a delicious contrast. The slight crunch of the sugary topping rounded out the flavor. The custard in this recipe is a bit more dense than the other clafoutis' I've made, but was just as pleasing to the palate. In my opinion, definitely add the vanilla extract, (or maybe experiment with vanilla bean.)

The grapefruits were a little on the small side, but very juicy, which made for some difficulty in getting nice segments.But perseverance paid off.

Will it replace my favorite cherry clafoutis recipe? No, I don't think so. But I will be adding this recipe to my "make again" file to make delicious use of those wonderfully sweet grapefruits hanging in my yard that I sometimes take for granted.

Start picking and using those Grapefruits and let me know your thoughts.


Grapefruit Clafoutis


3 large eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup low-fat milk

3 Tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine or unsalted butter, melted

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 rub red grapefruit, or 1 ruby red grapefruit and 1 orange

1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar


Beat eggs in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Whisk in sugar, then flour. Whisk in milk, margarine, lemon zest, and salt. ( I added a ½ tsp of vanilla extract as well, not in original recipe) Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature

Cut ends off grapefruit, and stand on cutting board. Remove peel and pith around sides of grapefruit with serrated knife so pulp is visible.

Take peeled grapefruit in one hand, and slice pulp segments away from fruit membranes with the other hand. Repeat with remaining grapefruit.

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 10 inch oven-proof skillet or cake pan with cooking spray.

Arrange grapefruit sections in bottom of prepared pan, and pour batter over top. (Batter will not completely cover fruit).

Bake 30 minutes, then sprinkle Turbinado sugar over top of clafoutis. Bake additional 5 minutes or until clafoutis is set and top is lightly browned.