Grapefruit Notes

960_myKES_freshIt’s grapefruit season and I just plowed through my first case, which I get from TerMarsch Groves in West Palm Beach. It is a total nod to my past. Throughout my childhood, my maternal grandparents spent the winter in a little beach house within the Lost Tree Club, a private community that catered to southern businessmen. I visited them during the Christmas break, and loved getting away from snowy Vermont where I was in boarding school. My grandfather used to spend the day in his room, watching sports with his day’s quota of Vantage cigarettes lined up on his desk, while my grandmother would take my sister and me to the Ter Marsch fruit stand, to drink sticky orange juice and dab ourselves with orange blossom cologne. There were always grapefruits in the white linoleum kitchen. I think every middle class kid in the 1970s had grapefruit at least once a week for breakfast.

If you ever wondered about the name, it may be that “grapefruit” comes from the French word grappes, which means cluster. Grapefruit does indeed grow in clusters, though it doesn’t taste at all like grapes. It is the most marvelous combination of sweet and tart. Surprisingly, a few slugs of grapefruit juice can postpone one’s appetite. Maybe that’s the real reason why the faddish “grapefruit diet” works, not its claims to help the body burn fat (due to the fruit’s low glycemic index—a measure of how quickly blood sugars rise after eating a given food). Anyway, I always lose a bit of weight during grapefruit season. But you should check with your doctor before going crazy with the stuff: Grapefruit interacts badly with 85 different medications.

There are many varieties of grapefruit: seedless and seeded, and with flesh in various shades of white and pink and red. Grapefruit is primarily a winter fruit, best from late fall until spring. When buying grapefruits smell them. Sniff at the stem end and if you don’t get slammed with a wonderful grapefruity aroma, then don’t buy it. Grapefruit don’t ripen off the stem, so they aren’t going to get any tastier if they sit around in your fruit bowl or fridge. Grapefruit skin should be bright, and firm, and when you give it a squeeze, springy. Keep grapefruit in the fridge. They will hold for a couple of weeks before the mold finds them.

  • One medium sized grapefruit will weigh about one pound, though that measurement can be deceiving: grapefruits with lots of juice in them are heavier. One medium grapefruit will produce around ¾ cup juice.
  • Grapefruit is quite acidic: 3.00 – 3.75 so can be safely water bath canned. It makes excellent marmalade, and the juice cans very well—it’s a lot more stable than orange juice. The peel is delicious used as zest or candied. You can preserve grapefruit in jars with sugar syrup, or freeze the supremes dry or in sugar syrup.
  • Grapefruit is wonderful with fish, sweet herbs like basil and mint, and caramel. The juice is excellent for many uses, from making your own grapefruit gelatin (strain the grapefruit juice before adding the gelatin—about 3 packets to 4 cups juice and sugar to taste), to marinating seafood, to making fantastic cocktails.
Grilled_Grapefruit_00003Broiled Grapefruit

Serves 4

Such a simple preparation, and yet it makes the grapefruit so much sweeter!

2 grapefruits, halved at the equator
½ cup Demerara sugar (sugar in the raw)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the broiler.

  • Slice a little piece off the bottom of the grapefruit so that it sits straight.
  • Sprinkle the top of each grapefruit with about 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add salt and pepper.
  • Place the grapefruits in a baking pan where they fit snugly. Place under the broiler and broil for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has melted and the rind begins to brown. The grapefruit flesh will be a bit puffy. This is good.

Serve immediately.


Crab and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4

This dish reminds me of one you would get in an old fashioned country club, maybe stuffed in an avocado…so yes, it’s kind of retro but still quite delicious: tart and sweet and light. I like to serve it with saltine crackers. Remember them?

1 cup grapefruit sections (1 large grapefruit)
2 cups chopped avocado
½ pound crab meat
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ cup olive oil
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • To prep the grapefruit sections, cut the grapefruit at the equator and then carefully cut the flesh free of its many membranous sections. You can also cut away the peel (I zest the peel first and save the peel to candy), and then cut the grapefruit flesh free of its membrane.
  • Gently toss the grapefruit, avocado, crabmeat, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Puntarelle with Grapefruit

Serves 4

This delightful recipe reminds me that ingredients in season together—in this case winter–often pair together. Also called Roman wild chicory or Catalan chicory, puntarelle, which means “little points,” looks a bit like dandelion greens growing from a fennel bulb. It is less leafy than its cousins in the botanical family Cichorium. Only the crisp white stalks are eaten, as the deep green leafy tips (or points) are very bitter. And even the stalks can be too bitter if they are chopped across the plant. But sliced lengthwise, kind of in long diagonal slivers, their bitterness is transformed into a taste delicately sharp. Like chicory and chard, my Italian relatives believe puntarelle cleans the stomach, and is good for the blood. (It is high in iron and vitamins A and C.) Sometimes I add sliced gravlox or smoked salmon to this dish. It’s wonderful.

1 cup grapefruit sections (1 large grapefruit)
3 to 4 cups puntarelle, the white parts sliced lengthwise
½ teaspoon chopped anchovy
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese

  • To prep the grapefruit sections, cut the grapefruit at the equator and then carefully cut the flesh free of its many membranous sections. You can also cut away the peel (I zest the peel first and save them to candy), and then cut the grapefruit flesh free of its membrane.
  • Place the puntarelle in a bowl of cold water with a big pinch of salt and let it soak while you make the dressing.
  • Combine the anchovy and garlic in the bottom of your salad bowl and mash them together (you can also use a mortar and pestle for this too). Add the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and whisk together.
  • Drain the puntarelle and dry it (either in a spinner or with towels). Dump the puntarelle in a serving bowl. Toss in the dressing. Add the grapefruit and combine. Garnish with the shaved Parmesan.


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