– Madeline Dickerson
One of the joys of nature that I’ve come to strongly appreciate lately is how in the winter when the markets are closed and the majority of fresh fruit is shipped pesticides and all from Mexico, citrus fruits, and particularly grapefruit, are actually in season. Grapefruit is probably my favorite in the citrus family because it’s tart, sweet and juicy all at the same time. So, if you have a case of the winterblahs, pick up some grapefruit and you’ll understand why its Latin name is Citrus Paradisi.
Unlike many of the foods I’ve covered in this blog so far, grapefruits are relatively new to the culinary world. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, grapefruits formed from a natural cross breading between the orange and Pummelo and were first discovered in the 18th century in Barbados. They are the only citrus strain not originating in SE Asia.
Originally called the forbidden fruit, it wasn’t until 1814 in Jamaica that the fruit got its modern name based on the way it grows in grape like clusters on the tree. Probably the most well known type of grapefruit is the Ruby Red, but there are also pink and white varieties as well. The color refers more to the flesh color rather than the skin color.
The pink color of grapefruits comes from lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the occurrence of tumors and fight free radicals. While extremely good for you, care should be taken if you are on prescription medications as grapefruit juice can sometimes interfere with these drugs, making them more potent.
For those of you who vowed to go on a diet for your new year’s resolution, the infamous grapefruit diet probably isn’t the best choice. Started in the 1930’s, and originally known as the Hollywood diet, it is based on the idea that the fruit contains a certain compound that when eaten with proteins triggers fat burning which causes weight loss. Dieters are encouraged to eat half a grapefruit and primarily protein for all meals. Unfortunately, it seems that much of the weight loss is due to water loss and is regained soon after the 12-day diet ends. However, at the same time, grapefruits might be a good addition to a more reasonable diet plan since they have been shown to reduce insulin levels causing you to feel fuller and less likely to eat unneeded calories.
When choosing grapefruit at the store, don’t worry too much about skin discolorations or scratches but stay away from ones with rough, wrinkly skin as it could be a sign of more skin, less juicy flesh. Also, choose ones that are heavy for their size and are firm but slightly springy.
One of my favorite and easiest ways to eat grapefruit is to simply cut it in half horizontally, cut the fruit segments away from the rind and their casings, then sprinkle with sugar and enjoy. For an added treat, toss that grapefruit sprinkled with sugar under the broiler for a minute or two and you’ll get a kind of grapefruit Crème Brûlée minus the Crème. Or, if you’re looking for a little vodka in your diet, pour an ounce over a grapefruit half, sprinkle with 1 ½ teaspoons of brown sugar and broil.
If you need a little more inspiration on what to do with those perfect grapefruits you just bought, check out the citrus salsa and shrimp, grapefruit, spinach salad recipes I tried, below. I also made a grapefruit mimosa, which I strongly suggest drinking while making the recipes for added grapefruit inspiration and, of course, to get your daily dose of vitamin C.
Mix equal parts champagne and grapefruit juice in champagne flute, top with a mint sprig and a grapefruit wedge for garnish.
Citrus Salsa: Adapted from a recipe by TexasSweet
Makes about 2 cups
1 grapefruit, peeled sectioned, chopped
1 large orange, peeled, sectioned, chopped (I used a blood orange because I had one lying around)
1 medium tomato
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1) Mix grapefruit, orange, peppers, onion, cilantro, salt and sugar.
2) Seed and chop the tomato. Combine with other ingredients.
3) Drain juice before serving.
Shrimp and Grapefruit Spinach Salad: From MarthaStewart.com
3 pink grapefruit
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used honey mustard)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ pounds spinach, stems trimmed and leaves washed
½ red onion thinly sliced
1) Peel the grapefruit, removing all of the white pith and slice about a ¼ of an inch thick.
2) In a large bowl whisk together vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper. Drizzle in ½ cup of vegetable oil and whisk to combine.
3) Season shrimp with some salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add shrimp and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side, turning once, until pink.
4) Add grapefruit, shrimp, spinach, and onion to the vinaigrette in the bowl. Toss well and serve.