This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
One of the best things about the dreary days of winter is all the colorful and delicious varieties of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits to be relished at their peak of freshness. Just when we need it most, citrus is there to brighten our eyes and our taste buds all the way from December to sunny spring. Today we’re going to talk specifically about grapefruit and some new ways to inject it into sweets and savories alike. But, first a little primer on grapefruit basics.
It may be dark and cold outside, but winter is grapefruit’s time to shine. For some, grapefruit is the orange’s bitter cousin; an orange gone wrong with less sweetness. To me, the bitterness is part of grapefruits charm. The bitterness actually makes the sweetness just that much sweeter.
The History of the Grapefruit
Unlike most fruit families, citrus is subject to constant mutation among its branches. Grapefruit, the “citrus of paradise,” first appeared in the 18th century in Barbados as a cross between a regular orange and a pomelo. The name “grapefruit” is said to come from the grape-like clusters in which the fruit grows. Early in the 19th century, Florida farmers brought grapefruit to America. It became popular when a mutation causing a pink fruit was discovered in a grove in Texas, ultimately exaggerating to the Ruby Red grapefruit today. Most of the grapefruit in the U.S. is grown in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.
There are several varieties of grapefruit to choose from with skin colors ranging from green to gold, and flesh ranging from yellow to crimson with varying degrees of bitterness. One would think that the deep pink, Ruby Red would be the sweetest, but the sweetest grapefruit is probably the Oro Blanco, a white variety with only a touch of bitterness. Pink grapefruit is probably in the middle of the bitter/tart spectrum with most white grapefruits a little more on the tart side.
How to Pick the Best Grapefruit
A good grapefruit doesn’t have to be perfect in color. Skin discoloration, scratches or scales may affect the outside appearance of a grapefruit, but they do not impact the taste or texture quality. Look for heavy, slightly soft fruit as this indicates thinner skin with a higher concentration of juicy flesh. The heavier the better. At room temperature, grapefruit should have a slightly sweet aroma. Overly rough or wrinkled skin indicates thicker-skinned fruit and should be avoided.
The Health Benefits of Grapefruit
It’s no coincidence that citrus reaches its winter peak just when we need it most. Grapefruit is low in calories and also provides a significant amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s high in vitamin C, A and B and key antioxidants that protect our bodies from damage caused by free radicals. Pink and red varieties offer more of these antioxidants than white grapefruit, so it’s a good idea to indulge in the entire grapefruit spectrum for the best benefits.
Where to Store Grapefruit
Keep citrus fruit in your fridge’s crisper drawer, loose and out of plastic bags where moisture is trapped and mold is more likely to grow. I often bring citrus home and leave it in a bowl for a day or so, then transfer it to the refrigerator. That way I can enjoy not only eating it, but looking at it as well.
The Best Ways to Use Grapefruit
Whether an orange or a grapefruit, I enjoy refreshing citrus most winter mornings with breakfast, but citrus isn’t just for breakfast. The easiest way to inject grapefruit into an evening meal is as an addition to winter salads. I love a bitter green salad with grapefruit, olives and fennel. It’s also delicious added to a beet salad with walnuts and feta cheese or chopped and added to a citrusy slaw. But, did you know that grapefruit can make an especially charming cookie? The Grapefruit Ricotta Cookie recipe (below) combines tart/sweet grapefruit and rich ricotta cheese to make a fluffy, cakey Italian-style cookie any Italian grandma would be proud to bake. The grapefruit zest and juice go into the cookie adding a touch of tart/sweet to round out the richness of the cheese with a zippy citrusy glaze on top. I love to make these cookies in the winter as there is nothing finer with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea. Come to think of it, these cookies might taste nearly as good in the summer; maybe with a glass of iced Earl Grey tea. Hmmm… I’ll have to try that.
Next up is a fruity ice composed of pink grapefruit and blackberries. I love how the blackberry adds extra color and a berry-like sweetness that grapefruit alone can’t match. One of the most attractive features of ice is the fact that you don’t need an ice cream freezer to make it. Just blend the ingredients together, pour in a 9×3-inch metal pan and pop it in the freezer for 1 hour. After an hour’s freeze, give the frozen edges a scrape with the tines of a fork, freeze for another hour, scrape again and then let it freeze for another hour or overnight. It is sweet enough that it usually doesn’t harden into an “unscoopable” mass, but if it is too hard to scoop, just scrape again with the fork to loosen it up. I usually make fruit ice a day ahead just to be sure that it’s firm, but even slushy, a fruit ice is heaven. Another nice way to serve it is to pour a shot of chilled vodka or tequila over it and serve as a cocktail or boozy dessert. Both work for me!
Last but not least is a weeknight meal of Halibut with Citrus Slaw and Grapefruit Compote. The night this recipe was conceived, I told my husband that we would probably drop a kilo or two after eating this spa-like meal. It’s February and we’re still trying to get a handle on what happened to our waistlines after the crazy holidays. It’s tough to get outside and exercise this time of year so a meal this light and healthy fits our vegetable and lean protein regime perfectly.
Speaking of fresh, there probably isn’t a more robustly available winter fruit and vegetable combo than citrus and cabbage. I’m crazy about cabbage and slaw is one of the most versatile to me, especially when paired with citrus, my other obsession. I used pink grapefruit here because I love the color and flavor but any old grapefruit will do. The slaw is gorgeous with shades of purple, green, orange and pink. Oh, and remember to slice the veggies as thinly as possible or the grapefruity vinaigrette will not flavor the slaw as it should. If you prefer, you can let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes and the vinaigrette will break down and soften the vegetables if they’re tough. However, I prefer my slaw on the crunchy side. All that chewing, you know… exercise.
So, bring home an assortment of grapefruit and add some winter sunshine to salads, main dishes and desserts. It’s peak season and grapefruit’s time to shine.
Grapefruit Ricotta Cookies
Start-to-Finish: 2 hours
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Makes about 48 cookies
Italian cookies are some of the best in the world and these cakey, fruity rounds are perfect for a tea tray or to go with that afternoon coffee or tea. The ricotta cheese makes them moist and fluffy, almost kind of like cheesecake, with a tart/grapefruit glaze. Nonna would definitely approve.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- One 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 white, pink or ruby red grapefruit, zested
- 3 Tbsp. white, pink or ruby red grapefruit juice plus 3 tablespoons, divided
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and set it aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixer bowl on medium-high speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the ricotta, grapefruit zest, 3 Tbsp. juice and vanilla and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and add the flour in 3 increments, mixing just until blended and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
- Scoop the cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 12 to a pan. They will spread a little bit. I like to use a 1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) scoop to keep them all the same size.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. They should be lightly browned on the bottom. Cool on racks.
- While the cookies cool, combine the 3 Tbsp. juice and powdered sugar in a medium bowl to make a glaze. Dip the top of the cooled cookies into the glaze and return to the parchment lined pans to dry and harden. If the glaze is too thick, add a few drops of grapefruit juice to thin it out. It will take an hour or so for the glaze to become hard enough so that you can pack the cookies.
Make-ahead: Cookies will keep for up to 3 days, wrapped at room temperature and can be frozen up to 3 months.
Pink Grapefruit and Blackberry Ice
Start-to-Finish: 3 hours plus
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
The perfect ending for a hearty winter meal, a light as a feather grapefruit ice is something special when paired with the rich flavor of blackberry. A feast for the palate and the eyes, I don’t know which is more captivating the taste or the color.
- 1 pint blackberries, plus a few for garnish
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- Bring blackberries, water, sugar and salt to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and smash the blackberries with a potato masher or the tines of a fork. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl discarding the solids. Stir in the grapefruit juice and lemon.
- Pour into a metal 9 x 13-inch pan and let cool to room temperature. Place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the freezer and scrape the frozen edges into the slushy center of the pan with a fork. Return to the freezer for another hour. Scrape the ice crystals again to the center and return to the freezer for at least another hour or overnight.
- Scoop the ice into small chilled bowls, garnish with blackberries and grapefruit wedges and serve immediately.
Make-ahead: Ice can be made a day ahead. If the mixture becomes too firm to scoop, just scrape again with the tines of a fork to loosen the crystals. It can be kept in the freezer for a few days.
Halibut with Citrus Slaw and Grapefruit Compote
Start-to-Finish: 30 minutes
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Halibut is a favorite fish of mine. Mild and flaky, it’s a thicker filet than most fish and stays more moist and delicious. Topped with a compote of grapefruit, fennel and cilantro with a grapefruit vinaigrette, this fish becomes a meal worthy of a 4-star spa. The slaw is quick, easy and colorful with red and white cabbage, carrot, chile pepper and cilantro. Fresh and simple never tasted so good.
It’s that easy: I explain in the recipe how to section or “supreme” the grapefruit. If you’re having trouble envisioning the process, just google “How to supreme an orange” and you will find video tutorials on the technique. Or, you could just slice the grapefruit down any way you see fit. Either way. Because you are the boss of your grapefruit.
- 1 cup Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1/2 cup fennel, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro. minced
- 1 white, pink or ruby red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned, juice squeezed from membranes
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of chile flake
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Two 6 to 8 oz. halibut filets
- On a large cutting board, thinly slice the cabbages and transfer them to a medium bowl. Grate the carrot and add it to the bowl. Thinly slice the fennel and transfer to a small bowl. Chop the cilantro and add 3 Tbsp. to the cabbage and 1 Tbsp. to the fennel. Set aside.
- Cut away the top and bottom (north and south poles) of the grapefruit to reveal the flesh and cut away the peel and pith from the sides of the grapefruit, following the curve of the fruit so that you don’t cut away any of the flesh. With a sharp paring knife, cut the fruit from between the membranes from the outside to the center just inside the membrane on either side of a section. Remove the section, dropping it into the bowl with the fennel. Work your way around the grapefruit until all the sections have been freed from the membranes, then squeeze the remaining juice from the membranes into a small bowl. You should have about 1/4 cup.
- To the grapefruit juice, add the lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of sugar and chile flake. Stir to melt the salt and sugar and whisk in 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, sugar or lemon if it needs it.
- Add 1 Tbsp. of the vinaigrette to the grapefruit/fennel mixture and stir the remaining into the cabbage, tossing to mix well. Taste the slaw and add the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.
- Preheat the broiler and arrange the rack on the second highest placement.
- Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil. When it shimmers, add the fish to the pan, skin side down (it should sizzle) and cook for 2 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to the broiler and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flakes with a fork.
- Divide the slaw and fish between two plates and top the fish with the grapefruit compote.
Extra hungry? Add a microwaveable bag of frozen rice. There are some pretty tasty ones at my local Heinen’s in an array of flavors. It’s the perfect extendable dinner solution.
In the glass: With all the citrus, a lean Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford sounds sublime.