ARIZONA AVE — The pomelo (Citrus maxima) is a relatively unknown fruit with dense, mellow flesh worthy of recognition. Do not let the mysterious nature of this enormous, bottom-heavy orb deter you from picking one up at the Farmers’ Market. Gems hide beneath those yellow-green peels, cushioned by abundant, layered pith.
Sitting outdoors with a friend and peeling away layers is as satisfying as it is rewarding; each set of hands works to reveal pink, yellow, or light green segments. It is impossible, of course, to resist popping the cleaned fruit into your mouth. Pomelos taste like grapefruits without any bitterness. Like the ripest green melon, they are delightfully sweet but not cloyingly syrupy.
The pomelo is the largest of all citrus fruits and has been around for much longer than the grapefruit, which scientists believe resulted from a spontaneous hybridization of the orange and the pomelo. The fruit contains high levels of vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants while its bioflavonoid-rich rind acts as an anti-cancer agent, particularly valued in traditional Chinese medicine.
This colossal citrus rolls into season at the end of winter, arriving just in time for Chinese New Year and signifying both good fortune and prosperity. In some areas of Thailand, the pulp is thought to cure hangovers, while in other areas kids kick around exceptionally spherical pomelos for football games.
Most pomelo recipes incorporate ingredients from Southeast Asia, where the fruit grows natively. The pomelo flavor combines well with tamarind juice, lychee and shellfish. The sweet flesh can be enjoyed at any meal: chilled for breakfast; tossed in salads for lunch; or, as in the recipe below, squeezed and made into fruit curd for dessert. The state of California now produces more pomelos than any country, including China. Here is a new recipe that celebrates pomelo flavor and honors California style.
Combining the best of Ina Garten’s shortbread crust with Alice Waters’ fruit curd recipe, these pomelo bars are luscious and sweet. Because pomelo juice is not overly tart, you can substitute additional lemon juice if you prefer your citrus bars to be extra tangy.
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cup (165 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons whole milk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat 10 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup granulated sugar with a wooden spoon until fluffy. (Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed.) Add flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and continue beating until combined fully. Transfer dough to a 9-by-9 inch ungreased baking pan. (There is enough butter in the shortbread dough that you don’t need to grease the pan.) Using lightly floured fingers, press the dough evenly across the bottom of the baking pan. Poke in several places with a fork. Place the pan in freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
Bake chilled dough for 20 minutes, until the edges are only slightly golden. Remove pan from oven, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the pomelo curd: First, zest the pomelo and clean enough fruit to squeeze out 1/4 cup juice. (For a medium pomelo, you’ll need about half the fruit to yield enough juice.) Combine the zest, pomelo juice, lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, milk, remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 6 tablespoons butter in a saucepan set over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the curd coats the back of a spoon. (Use caution to avoid boiling the mixture or it will curdle.) Remove immediately from the heat and pour into a glass container. (Pomelo curd will keep, refrigerated, in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks.)
Pour curd into cooled crust. Use a spatula to smooth the top surface. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pomelo curd is set. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
To serve, slice the pomelo bars into small triangles and dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar.