Winter can be a depressing on so many fronts. It’s cold, dark, and so few fruits and vegetables are in season. The only light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, is the promise of a new bounty each spring. But until then it’s time to make the best of what’s on offer, and some of that can not only be delicious but frankly surprising as well.
Take grapefruit, for example. While it has long been a staple of the breakfast table, grapefruit has moved to the dinner table in a big way. One of the main reasons? Because it’s in-season in the winter when there is a paucity of fresh fruit and vegetables. Grapefruit’s unique, sweet, sour and ever so slightly bitter flavor can add depth, complexity and a sophisticated touch to many a signature dish, though we still love it on its own just about any time!
How to buy grapefruit
Grapefruit at their peak should be firm and juicy, which makes them heavy for their size. It’s easy to compare grapefruit; just pick them up! Make sure that the grapefruit is also firm to the touch and without major bruises, though some scars are to be expected. The skin of the grapefruit is thick and helps protect the pulp quite well.
In fact, there are two groups of grapefruit: thick-skinned and thin-skinned. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell them apart, but the most obvious indication is that the stem end of the thick-skinned varieties have a mound where the stem is attached to the fruit. Skins that are ridged, rough, or creased might also indicate that the fruit in question has a thick skin. Thin-skinned fruits are generally juicier than thick-skinned examples.
Grapefruit comes in three colors. White grapefruit is the least sweet, and not surprisingly is the original grapefruit, which is actually a hybrid fruit resulting from the cross between a pomelo and sweet orange. In due time, the white grapefruit underwent a genetic mutation that produced the pink grapefruit, which may be marginally sweeter but should not be confused with the ruby grapefruit.
The ruby red grapefruit, a staple of the Lone Star State’s fruit industry, is another naturally occurring mutation, but one that produced sweeter, less acidic, and most importantly less bitter fruit.
How to store grapefruit
Because of its robust skin, grapefruit is easy to store. It can handle a week or so at room temperature. For longer-term storage or simply because they’re more refreshing served chilled, you can store grapefruit in a fruit and vegetable drawer in your fridge. Don’t smash them in there as they can be bruised if you really try, and don’t store them in sealed plastic bags. Fresh grapefruit can be stored for three weeks in the fridge if properly stored.
Grapefruit has a reputation of being bitter, and it’s true, it is a bit bitter. But you can minimize the bitterness and highlight the sweet, bright flavor of grapefruit by preparing it properly. That means removing the intact sections of pulp from the pith and membrane that separates them. It sounds challenging, but it’s really quite easy. Once you get started removing sections, you’ll find that they slide away from the membranes with little effort. The sections are then ready to be added to your favorite fruit salads, savory dishes, or desserts.
How to supreme citrus fruit
Here's our handy step-by-step guide on how to supreme grapefruit and other citrus fruits. Just click on How to Supreme a Citrus Fruit for the slideshow or watch the YouTube video.
Cooking with grapefruit
One very popular use for grapefruit has been as a garnish and accent for raw fish. I like to match the intensity of the grapefruit with an equally intense fish like mackerel, served raw in the Italian crudo style, though with a distinct Latin American kick.
Mackerel with Grapefruit, Chile, Avocado and Toasted Pepitas
Serves 4 to 6
1 ruby red grapefruit, supremed over a bowl
zest and juice of one orange
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp freshly crushed red chile
1lb Spanish mackerel fillet
1 Haas avocado
¼ toasted pepitas
1) Supreme the grapefruit over a non-reactive bowl, reserving the sections.
2) Zest the orange and add 1 tsp of the zest to the bowl containing the grapefruit juice. Juice the orange and add the juice to the bowl containing the grapefruit juice.
3) Add the olive oil, and crushed chile to the juice and whisk together.
4) Add the mackeral fillet to the juice and cover completely.
5) Peel, remove the pit, and slice the avocado into ¼-inch slices.
6) Remove the fish from the dressing and slice into ¼-inch slices.
7) To plate, arrange a fan of alternating slices of fish and avocado. Garnish with the grapefruit supremes. Pour a tablespoon of so of the dressing over each plate and garnish with a toss of pepitas.
With so much flavor going on this can be a challenging pairing. I like to go with a skin-contact white with this dish. These types of wines can pick up a touch of tannin, which helps with the richness of the dish, while they gain deep, savory flavors that meld perfectly with the layered notes the dish provides.
To view the photos for this article, go to What's in Season: Grapefruit.