Grilled Fruit 4 - Grapefruit (Dessert)
In Praise of Grapefruit
The biologists have the concept of "hybrid vigor." Essentially it is the idea that hybrid offspring, which combine the genes of two or more parents of different species, are superior in some way or ways to either parent. From the simple viewpoint of food and cooking, the concept can be expressed in another way -- Magic!
Grapefruit is a hybrid. Its parents are the pomelo and the sweet orange, though it is more like the former than the latter. This hybridization appears to have first occurred in Barbados, which only seems natural because we think of it even today as a tropical fruit coming from the Caribbean.
Neither parent originated in the Caribbean, however. The pomelo was brought from Indonesia; the sweet orange probably from China -- brought to Jamaica. Then nature took its course, most likely, as there is no history of purposeful hybridization/cultivation. Many hybrids arise solely as natural occurrences.
First described botanically in mid-18th century, either no one thought to eat the grapefruit, preferring just to look at the tree; or the few who tried it were underwhelmed by its slightly bitter taste. Move forward about a century, however, and tastes have changed dramatically. The Atwood Grove in Manatee County, FL is now the world's largest, shipping 80,000 boxes a year up north. In 1905, a pink grapefruit was discovered there.
That slightly bitter taste caught on, obviously, and the taste for it continued to grow into the giant industry we have today, now spread over much of the sun belt and into other countries as well.
What concerns us here, of course, is not so much the history as that distinctive taste of the grapefruit. Here we are going both to soften and enhance that taste -- both at the same time, both as a result of something not usually thought of in connection with grapefruit: grilling.
Just to look at a cut grapefruit is a delight, is it not?
The modern grapefruit has been bred to produce fewer seeds and thus more edible pulp. The pretty pattern the segments make is undisturbed by seeds in most cases. Not that a few seeds would matter to the taste we are in pursuit of.
In praise of grilling grapefruit
Actually, here we can continue the general praise of grapefruit before launching into the virtues of grilling.
The two main nutritional benefits are assistance in keeping cholesterol low and antioxidant properties. The red and pink forms in particular contain lycopene, a known antioxidant. No doubt this accounts to some extent for grapefruit's reputation as something that helps slow the aging process. There's even a "grapefruit diet," but one can go overboard in touting the health benefits here. Obviously, grapefruit is a good source of Vitamin C. But there is no need to present this delicious fruit as some sort of miracle cure.
Now, as to the grilling. The reason to grill this fruit is the same as for grilling any other fruit -- enhanced flavor. The grilling adds notes to the grapefruit's flavor which both modify it and add to it.
In praise of grilling, part 2
The enhancement to flavor that grilling imparts is particularly subtle in the case of grapefruit.
The tartness-sweetness balance is altered slightly. The tartness is slightly reduced. Either the sweetness is enhanced or it is just that the competition from the tartness goes down, so that the sweetness comes through slightly more. It is difficult to say. But the net result is novel and interesting -- and worth trying, if only because it is so easy to do so.
Grilling is quick, a couple of minutes on each side. The more time on the grill, of course, the more the alteration is taste and the softer the result. Don't overdo it, though. We want the grapefruit to retain its familiar shape and look at the same time we are seeking to enhance it.
Grilled grapefruit makes an elegant dessert
A simple grilled grapefruit is elegant competition for deserts such as pastries or cakes or ice cream or sorbets. It doesn't need sugar, but if someone insists on sugar, the sugar to use would be raw sugar, with the large golden grains -- and not too many of them.
Light, few calories, health benefits, refreshing taste, simple, novel -- all of the above.
A meal should end with something light rather than something heavy, and grilled grapefruit is hard to beat on that score.
You might try combining it with chocolate, milk or dark, though dark seems the better fit. I haven't done this yet, but maybe next time. If you have done this, please comment!
The pomelo has a slightly sweeter, milder taste than a grapefruit. It looks like a grapefruit, but is noticeably larger. The distinctive bitterness of the grapefruit is absent, or nearly absent, though the white membrane around the segments is quite bitter and is usually peeled off completely and thrown away before the segments are consumed.
The grapefruit, which has earlier established itself in the Caribbean, was first brought to Florida by a Frenchman from Lyon who settled in the US. He brought the grapefruit first to Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida in 1823, where he established a plantation.
If you include pomelos, China outproduces the US by 3 to 1. The next largest producer is Mexico, which produces less than half the US.
Part of a series
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Series within series, actually. Food & Cooking, for example, then -- within that -- series on vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, etc. Books, too. Ideas, too. Travel, too. Key virtues:. pictures, clear step-by-step text. Delicious -- whether foods or ideas! All of the series, and all of the items in each series, can be found at this link: Lee White's Department Store
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