I don’t know about you, but where I live, when the bone-chilling cold of winter sets in, it feels like it will never thaw. Steel grey skies, cloudy days and long dark nights leave us shivering under blankets for months.
So how do we add a bit of tropical warmth and sunshine to our winter-weary lives? While there are lots of options, I always turn to grapefruit when my wintery life needs some sparkle. With its delicately tart flavor, subtle sweet undertones and sensual juicy flesh, grapefruit makes me feel like I’ve jetted off to an island locale for a break from the winter weather. Out of hand, in salads, dressings and roasted veggie dishes, grapefruit adds a zest to our cooking that is without peer.
Believed to be native to Jamaica, many experts believe that the grapefruit is the result of a natural hybridization between the pomelo and the sweet orange. It is also believed that the name “grapefruit” comes from the fact that the fruit grows in clusters like grapes.
Grapefruits are round, 4-6 inches in diameter, with a smooth skin, with a yellow or yellow-pink hue. Inside, you will find yellow, pink or reddish flesh with a sharp, sweet, acidic flavor. While some are seedless, most grapefruits have large seeds and are harvested just before maturity because if they fall from the tree, they will lose their characteristic sharp, acidic taste.
The color of grapefruits does not indicate ripeness and cannot be relied on to indicate sweetness or flavor. In fact, grapefruit will not lose its green color until exposed to cool nights. Once picked they can be ripened in a heated room.
The U.S. is the largest producer of grapefruits, accounting for 40% of the world’s yield. More than 60% of all grapefruits are used in juice or canned, while the rest are sold in their magnificent fresh state.
How do we know if the grapefruit we are choosing will be yummy? Pick a grapefruit that is heavy for its size, feels firm to the touch and has tight shiny skin. Avoid overly soft fruit with dull skin as these will be less than fresh.
Powerhouses of nutrition, grapefruits are rich sources of Vitamin A, C, potassium and folic acid. It is traditionally used in natural medicine to stimulate the appetite, aid in digestion and stimulate weight loss with its diuretic properties.
Most often cut in half and served fresh, the grapefruit can be used in a variety of ways. Desserts, salads, dressings, sauces, juice, sorbet or as the sparkling ingredient in a number of savory dishes, the grapefruit can be used anyplace you would use oranges or even pineapple.
Here is one of my favorite dishes.
Refreshing Winter Green Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
I love this hearty salad as a side dish on those chilly nights when you think you’ll never see the sun again.
Makes 3-4 servings
1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons stoneground mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
ground black pepper
1 bunch watercress, washed well, hand shredded
1 Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, shredded
3 ripe pomegranates, seeds removed
½ cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped
2 pink grapefruits, peeled, sectioned
Make the vinaigrette by whisking ingredients together until well-combined. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
Prepare the salad by combining all ingredients in a mixing bowl and tossing with the dressing just before serving.
Cook’s Tip: Be sure to remove all the bitter white pith from the grapefruits to insure sweet taste. And to serve a pomegranate, split the hard shell open and remove the seeds. Discard the skin and toss the seeds in the salad.