A good friend of mine recently came for a visit by way of Sun City, Arizona. Knowing what a nut I am for fresh organic produce, she brought me a basket of tree-ripened lemons, oranges and grapefruit, just picked that morning. There is nothing sweeter than tree-ripened fruit. The oranges were so juicy, un-pithy, pure nectar to my tastebuds and the fragrance was heady. We had the grapefruit for breakfast, without any added sugar, honey or other taste enhancers and nary a sour puss was spied. I was truly tempted to take off to Sun City from Las Vegas that weekend in search of those backyard citrus groves.
Arizona produces plenty of citrus, avocados, pomegranites, figs and other luscious fruit. Nearly every homeowner has a few trees of fruit to harvest each year. Many of the seniors living in Sun City donate their backyard bounty to food banks. Volunteers from the food banks collect the wind-fallen fruit and pick ripe fruit that would ordinarily go to waste. It’s another way to help the community and reduce fruit fly populations without the use of pesticides.
Lemon budino is a sumptuous souffle that has its beginnings in San Francisco eateries. Budino, Italian for pudding, is redolent of a lemon meringue pie without a crust. Along with the balance of the sweet and tart characters of lemon is the creamy consistency of the pudding and crusty topping of whipped egg whites that rises out of the pudding during baking. Traditionally, it is served with whipped cream or cream fraiche and is an elegant light finale to a heavy meal. Berries and chocolate are also delicious accompaniments.
The basic recipe lends itself to improvisation. Lavender will add another depth of flavor that becomes apparent after the first bite and lingers until the last. Adding ginger will give the budino sparkle. Substituting another juice, such Meyer lemon or orange, will completely change the budino flavors but the basic light souffle and creamy texture will remain. Adapt the recipe given here and make it your own.
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
- 2 tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 6 ramekins (3/4 cup size) and dust with sugar.
- Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon juice and lemon peel in large bowl, whisk until blended. Whisk in milk.
- Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl until frothy, 1-2 minutes. Add remaining 2 tbsp sugar and beat until soft peaks form; the peaks should fall over when the beaters are raised from the bowl. Gently fold half the beaten egg whites into lemon mixture. When incorporated fold in remaining egg whites.
- Divide mixture among prepared custard cups using a spoon or ladle. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups.
- Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes.
- Substitute mandarin orange juice and zest for the lemon components. Add 1 tsp of anise seeds to the beaten egg whites before folding into the batter. Serve with chocolate shavings and a dollop of whipped cream.
- Steep 1 Tbsp lavender (McCormick’s Gourmet brand) in ½ cup warm milk for 30 minutes or longer, stain through a fine mesh sieve, and add to the remaining milk before preparing the lemon batter.
- Add 1 tsp black poppy seeds to beaten egg whites before folding into lemon batter.