The first taste of spring is all about lemons. Sure the bright, fresh zing of lemons is great almost any time, but there’s something about this time of the year when it has particular resonance. It’s a tonic, a cleanser – of palate and gut (and house for that matter) – a lovely foil for fresh herbs, it goes with so many flavors. So before the garden is serving up its first harvest of stalwart baby greens, tightly packed peas, pointy asparagus and early onions; before ramps appear at farmers’ markets, morels raise their dusky, honeycombed fool’s caps; before the heart of summer sneaks up on you, we look to lemons to bring us sprightly flavor and a break from winter’s stews. We offer up a spate of spring recipes, many of which deploy this seasonal citrus – lemons are ripe for the picking where they grow in Southern California, Arizona and other parts of the Southwest.
This light, lemony cake is based on a traditional Spanish torte. We are accompanying it with ruby-red raspberry sauce for a great spring dessert. It has the ingredients of a souffle and that dish’s characteristic lightness, but cooks up like a cake – you could even glisten it with a lemon glaze instead of serving it with the raspberry sauce. Add a dollop of whipped cream for a touch of decadence, and don’t forget that garnish of fresh raspberries and sprigs of spring mint. Adrienne demoed this at US Botanic Garden in DC in March 2015.
4 eggs, separated into 4 egg yolks and 4 egg whites, room temperature
2 T lemon zest, packed, from about three large lemons
2 T lemon juice, from about one lemon
1/4 t ground cardamom
½ C white sugar, divided
1½ C almond flour or almond meal (see below)*
1 t baking powder
1 t lemon or lime juice
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Garnish: Fresh raspberries, sprigs of mint
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, and grease it and the sides of the pan with butter or cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat together with a wooden spoon the egg yolks, lemon zest, and 1/4 C sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and beat again. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond, cardamom and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl and using an electric beater, beat egg whites,. As they begin to thicken, add a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of lemon or lime (the salt and the acid from the juice will help the meringue maintain better structure and increase creaminess). As the egg whites begin to increase in volume, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 C of sugar, a little at a time. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold the meringue into the almond mixture gently to create a light batter. Scoop the batter into a the prepared springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake helping it to separate from the side of the pan. Release the springform pan sides, and gently move the cake to a cake serving plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Serve with Raspberry Sauce on the side.
One pint raspberries
2/3 C white sugar
Combine raspberries and sugar in a nio-reactive pan. Cover and cook on low heat about 10 minutes until sugar is fully disolved and the raspberries are comopletely broken down and lost their shape. Remove from heat and cool. Pass mixture through a small-mesh seive. Refrigerate until ready for use. It will keep in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
1C confectioners sugar
1-2 T lemon juice
Combine the confectioners sugar and 1 T lemon juice in a bowl, mix thoroughly, adding more lemon juice as needed to achieve a consisency similar to pancake batter. Spread on cooled almond-lemon torte. Let the glaze harden about 30 minutes before serving.