I love the zing of plain, unadulterated grapefruit for breakfast. But the juicy flesh and perfumed zest of this sweet-tart fruit add a real spark to all kinds of dishes, from salads and salsas to desserts.
Although you see it at grocery stores year-round, grapefruit tastes best (and is least expensive) at its peak, which is from early winter through spring. In the United States, grapefruit is grown in Florida and Texas (which provide the bulk of the winter crop), while California and Arizona produce most of the spring supply.
Picking the best
Grapefruit falls into two basic types, based on the color of the flesh: white and pink (which includes red). This flesh color is not an indication of sweetness, which is more attributed to the season—fruits picked early are sour, but the same variety will turn sweeter as the season progresses. Regardless of color, the varieties are all similar, with the main difference being the number (or lack) of seeds.
In the store, look for firm fruit that feels heavy for its size, with plump, glossy skin. Store it at room temperature for up to a week, or up to three weeks in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.
Grapefruit’s refreshing, tart flavor makes it a superb companion to fish; it’s also very good with chicken and pork. Spices that marry well with grapefruit include cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; salt intensifies its sweetness. Fresh ginger and herbs such as mint, basil, tarragon, and rosemary are also good pairings. A surprisingly pleasant marriage comes with chile peppers, both hot and mild.
Grapefruit zest is bitterer than other citrus skin, so you may want to blanch it several times to tame the harshness before adding it to your recipe. And beware of the pith, which is intensely bitter (it’s used to flavor tonic water). A twist of grapefruit zest makes a nice change from lemon or lime in drinks where a little bitterness is welcome.