A slice of Delight With its variety of tastes and colors, grapefruit moves beyond breakfast and into and countless appealing recipes.

February 05, 1997|By Jennifer Lowe | Jennifer Lowe,ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In goes the spoon. Digging beneath the pink segment. Out goes the juice, straight into your eye.

Grapefruit. Is it any wonder we only see it one way?

Sliced in half and set before us as children, grapefruit was struggled with at breakfast as we squirted siblings.

"Even though they've been around forever, people tend to think there's only one kind of grapefruit, and it's sour," says cookbook author John Ash. "Yet I think they're so extraordinary."

As peak season arrives, the grapefruit is worth another look.

It ranks high with chefs such as Ash, who delight in its tart taste for everything from luscious desserts to buttery citrus sauces for lobster.

It packs in pectin (which helps lower cholesterol), potassium and plenty of vitamin C.

It works as a wonderful substitute for other citrus in salsas and vinaigrettes.

And the grapefruit has grown leaps and bounds in appeal; growers keep turning out new varieties of many shades -- deep reds, pale pinks, soft yellows -- of varying tartness and sweetness.

So go for some grapefruit. Try looking at it one of these ways: As a powerhouse of nutrients:

"The best way to think of a grapefruit is that it is as appealing a breakfast food as an orange would be," says Gail Frank, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

One-half of a medium-size grapefruit has 41 milligrams of vitamin C -- almost 70 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance. Red and pink varieties also contain beta carotene, an anti-oxidant that may help fight cancer. You'll also get small amounts of iron and thiamine. And grapefruit has pectin, a soluble fiber effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

As easy as an orange:

That's the campaign of the grapefruit folks in Texas, who produce Rio Reds and Ruby Sweets -- two grapefruits with crimson, juicy flesh.

"We're trying to convey that it's not difficult to eat, that it's very simple, and you can eat it like an orange," says Mary McKeever, a spokeswoman for Texa-Sweet Citrus Marketing. "People have preconceived ideas you can only cut grapefruit in half."

Not so. Peel them, they urge at Texa-Sweet, which this year will unveil its new campaign: the "Naked Grapefruit."

Use your fingers or a knife.

"Get a knife readily in hand, cut off both ends, then cut off the peel, then use creativity -- you can do so many things," McKeever says.

Once the fruit is peeled, parcel it into sections and eat them whole. Or cut the grapefruit crosswise into half-inch slices. Or cut it into quarters or chunks.

As a citrus stand-in:

Got a lemon recipe? Orange? Sub in that grapefruit, even for lemon meringue pie.

"People don't even think about it, but in cooking, I think the grapefruit is even better than lemons and oranges," says Ash, whose award-winning cookbook, "From the Earth to the Table" (Dutton, $29.95), features a grapefruit-banana brulee tart.

Try grapefruit juice in drinks usually made with oranges or lemons. One idea -- cranberry juice blended with grapefruit juice. Or, if you aren't a fan of sweet sodas, a soft drink can be made with freshjuice and seltzer.

Instead of squeezing lemon over fish -- especially canned fish -- try a grapefruit segment.

One of Ash's favorite uses? Fresh grapefruit juice instead of vinegar in a vinaigrette. An added bonus: As an ingredient, the juice is wine-friendly, unlike vinegar. Whisk together one part grapefruit juice to one or two parts oil, add salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

As more than breakfast:

Chef Patrick O'Connell, of the highly rated Inn at Little Washington outside Washington, tosses together a citrus salsa -- chopped grapefruit, minced shallots, chopped mint leaves and chopped jalapeno peppers -- then serves it atop grilled chicken breasts.

"You have the hotness of the jalapeno and the coolness of the grapefruit," says O'Connell, whose "The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook" (Random House, $50) offers several grapefruit recipes.

At his inn, O'Connell also makes a steamed lobster in a grapefruit-butter sauce; a poached chicken breast with grapefruit and pink peppercorns; tiny shortbread cookies topped with glazed grapefruit segments; and old-fashioned candied grapefruit rind.

The sweet-tart flavor of grapefruit works well in savory dishes, especially salads. In their book "Citrus" (Chronicle Books, $12.95), Ethel and Georgeanne Brennan feature a warm grapefruit and spinach salad. It "draws the sugar from the fruit, and if cooked over high heat, the sections will begin to caramelize," they write.

As more full of flavor:

If it's the sweet taste you crave, it's hard to beat the old-fashioned broiled grapefruit -- an icy cold grapefruit half, sprinkled with some brown sugar and heated briefly under the broiler.

"It's so sweet and so tart," Ash says. "A wonderful way to end a meal."

Here are some grapefruit recipes worth trying:

Texas grapefruit sunriser

Makes 4 8-ounce servings

2 Texas Red grapefruits

8 large strawberries

2 ripe medium bananas

8 ounces strawberry-banana yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup crushed ice

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