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Published January 06, 2010, 12:00 AM

Doeden: Grapefruit's use in salad stirs recollections of holidays

The sweet aroma of grapefruit greeted me early one morning as I wandered into my dark kitchen to make coffee. Their fragrance triggers memories of holidays past.

By: Sue Doeden, INFORUM

The sweet aroma of grapefruit greeted me early one morning as I wandered into my dark kitchen to make coffee. Their fragrance triggers memories of holidays past.

As a child, I would eagerly await the arrival of a big box of fresh fruit sometime just before Christmas. My Aunt Elinor, who lived in Chicago, always sent us a holiday gift box of pears and apples or a box of Florida oranges and grapefruit.

The oranges and grapefruit were my favorites. I loved watching my dad show off his trick of using his fingers to carefully peel the skin from oranges all in one piece, leaving a spiral of orange peel in his hand.

My mom always stashed some of the large orbs away as she planned ahead for the grapefruit diet she would begin after the holidays – her way of detoxifying and ridding herself of some lingering holiday puff. The remaining grapefruit would be placed before us each morning for breakfast.

Once she cut the grapefruit in half, my mom would use a grapefruit knife to carefully loosen each segment from its membranes, making the flesh slide right out of the grapefruit half when my brother and I scooped it with our spoons. Even after I got married, my aunt sent me a gift box of fresh fruit every Christmas season.

Aunt Elinor died several years ago, and the boxes of perfectly ripe, ready-to-eat fresh fruit no longer arrive at my door around the holidays. So, it’s off to the store I go, hunting for heavy and firm grapefruit with ruby red flesh.

Grapefruit is juicy, tart and tangy with an underlying sweetness that makes it a breakfast favorite. But its fruit and juice are tasty additions to many recipes and a great between-meals snack.

It is an ideal food to add to your list of “Healthful Foods to Eat in the New Year.” Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, both vitamins that support the immune system and provide additional powerful antioxidant protection. Not only is grapefruit delicious and nutritious, it is low in calories. My mom was right – health-promoting grapefruit is an ideal food for weight control.

Winter Citrus Salad combines fresh, colorful and healthful fruits and vegetables in one big bowl. Full of vitamins, fiber and nutrients, the salad gives great flavor satisfaction with each mouthful.

The light vinaigrette that dresses the salad gains tangy brightness with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and rice vinegar. Rice vinegar is mild and lightly seasoned with sugar and salt. Read the label on the bottle before you buy rice vinegar. Some brands are seasoned with high-fructose corn syrup, which many people are trying to avoid.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans add great toasted crunch with a little bit of a kick. I keep them on hand to add to any salad. They make a nice midday snack, too. They keep well stored in a jar in the pantry or in the refrigerator for an extended time.

I won’t be going on any kind of grapefruit diet, but I will definitely be enjoying the juicy ruby red grapefruit that will be at its peak sweetness and flavor through the winter months.

Although fresh, ripe grapefruit will retain its vitamin content and keep longer when refrigerated, I find they are much juicier when at room temperature. I keep a few on the kitchen counter. Their sweet aroma that meets my nose every morning is just as important to me as their wonderful flavor.

Winter Citrus Salad

1/4 cup freshly squeezed juice from red grapefruit

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons grated grapefruit zest

1/2 cup canola oil

1 (5- to 6-ounce) bag baby spring greens mix

1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach leaves

2 red grapefruits, peeled and segmented

2 small oranges, peeled and segmented

1 sweet red bell pepper, seeds removed, thinly sliced

1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced (optional)

1 or 2 avocadoes, peeled and sliced

1 cup (or more) Sweet and Spicy Pecans (recipe below)

In a small bowl, whisk together grapefruit juice, rice vinegar, honey, minced garlic, mustard and grated zest of grapefruit. Gradually whisk in canola oil.

In a large salad bowl, toss spring greens, spinach leaves, grapefruit and orange segments, red pepper and onion slices. Drizzle with some of the Grapefruit Vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat all ingredients in bowl. Add avocado slices and gently toss. Sprinkle salad with Sweet and Spicy Pecans. Serve immediately. If you choose to plate the salad, arrange it on 6 to 8 individual plates. Sprinkle Sweet and Spicy Pecans over each serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

1/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided

1 cup warm water

1 cup pecan halves

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 cup warm water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add pecan halves. Allow pecans to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, discarding sugar water.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with chili powder and ground red pepper. Add pecans, tossing to coat. Place pecans on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, stirring once during baking time. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a plate to cool.

Tips from the cook

  • Cooked shrimp or tuna can be added to this salad to create a complete meal on a plate.
  • Roasted peanuts are a nice alternative to Sweet and Spicy Pecans.
  • Zest of grapefruit is only the colored part of the skin. Leave the bitter white pith behind.


Sue Doeden is a food writer and photographer from Bemidji, Minn., and a former Fargo resident. Her columns are published in 10 Forum Communications newspapers. Questions or comments? E-mail Sue at food@forumcomm.com

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