Pink Grapefruit Halves and Those Who Love Them

January 16, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

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2013 is the year of pink grapefruit halves. I don’t mean that in a broad sense, like a trend prediction, I mean that in a personal sense. This year is a year in which I’ve already eaten my weight in pink grapefruit halves and it all started, appropriately enough, on New Year’s Eve day with Matt Lewis, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Baked. We were at Pulino’s in Manhattan and we shared a pink grapefruit half that was so outrageously delicious, I’m not going to tell you about it yet. We’ll save it for the finale.

But it put the idea in my head that pink grapefruit halves are terrific. There was a time, in the 80s, when every Weight Watchers-going mother in America would slice a grapefruit in half, put it in a bowl, sit down sadly with the paper and dig their way through both the grapefruit and the news. At the time, a pink grapefruit half was a form of dietetic punishment; it’d be served in diners with a sad Maraschino cherry at the center, like salt on a wound.

But now pink grapefruit halves are making a comeback. I can say that because in addition to the one that was so good at Pulino’s I’m not telling you about it yet, I encountered another one at The Breslin where I joined my friends Chris and Jimmy for breakfast. Here they are with Jimmy’s pink grapefruit half:

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Look closely and you’ll see this pink grapefruit is topped with ginger sugar and mint:

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It’s a pretty presentation, one that attempts a stab at Pulino’s level greatness without quite coming close; still, a grapefruit sliced in half and topped with sugar and mint will taste good.

That’s a lesson I took home with me, back here in California, and when I was sick with a nasty cold last week, I asked Craig to get me a pink grapefruit from Gelson’s. I sliced it in half, put it in a bowl and sprinkled it with vanilla sugar. Then I ate it while watching Jacques and Julia on Hulu Plus (you can see my sick blanket in this picture):

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When I was feeling better a few days later, I decided to serve a pink grapefruit half with breakfast. This time, I thought it would make things better if I ran my knife around the grapefruit after slicing it in half, loosening the segments, making it easier to eat with a fork. I was right. Here she is with fried eggs and buttered toast:

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Again, 2013 is the year of pink grapefruit halves. I wasn’t kidding.

And now for the pink grapefruit half you’ve all been waiting for, the one that sets the bar for all pink grapefruit halves that’ve come before or after; Pulino’s masterstroke:

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Do you see what they did there? They put sugar on top and caramelized it with a blow torch. Like creme brûlée.

Sam Sifton wrote of it, “[It's] not really a dish so much as a magic trick, the fruit covered with muscovado sugar and mint, then cooked into caramel.” There’s a recipe on the NYT site which has me scratching my head: instead of adding the sugar to the top of the grapefruit and heating it, you cook the sugar in a skillet and then add the grapefruit? Do they really do that for all the grapefruits at Pulino’s? The creme brûlée method makes more sense to me because then the sugar cooks along with the grapefruit juices, fusing the flavors together while changing the texture. I’m going to have to do some experimenting: anyone have a blowtorch I can borrow?

In the meantime, I’ll continue eating pink grapefruit halves the old fashioned way, pining for Pulino’s every so often but happy to enjoy the simple pleasures of this bitter fruit. 2013 is all about bitter fruit.

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Categories: Essays

  • Phil

    I was gifted one of these double-blade grapefruit knives (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/double-blade-grapefruit-knife/) for Christmas, and it has inspired me to eat grapefruit for many breakfasts already, and to try multiple kinds of grapefruit, including the close cousin, the pomelo. I’ve also had it broiled. Now I’ve got even more inspiration to keep on trying new things with my grapefruit. Thanks!

  • Grapefruit Fiend

    I agree with Phil – if you think you like grapefruit now, get yourself a grapefruit knife and you will become truly addicted! They even sell them at supermarkets.

  • http://twitter.com/katalia Katalia

    I love salt on my grapefruit … learned this trick from a friend’s dad, and please don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

    Maple syrup is another delightful grapefruit topping.

    I always slice around the outside, and the triangle of each segment with a paring knife … my dad was a chef, and this is how my family always prepped them, so that’s what I do. It’s a bit time consuming, but makes the eating part so much easier. I may have to get a grapefruit knife!

  • Connie

    Mom used to put sugar on top and then put under the broiler. Yummy!

  • knitty34

    Yeah, this is the year of the grapefruit for me to (just finished one before I sat down to read the blogs). Grapefruit spoon = best tool ever. http://www.crateandbarrel.com/stainless-steel-grapefruit-spoon/s422444

    Going to try that caramelized sugar thing – it looks incredible!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576584699 Joseph May

    I have several mature citrus trees in my yard here in Palm Springs. One of them is loaded with beautiful sweet pink grapefruit. I never know what to do with all of them and probably half get tossed. Adam if you find yourself in Palm Springs any time in the near future let me know and you can stop by and take as much as you want.

  • Emma-Kate

    When I was little we always had grapefruit halves for a breakfast starter at my grandmother’s house when we visited; she had a special grapefruit knife for going around the edges and also inside each segment to loosen them; and also special grapefruit spoons. She put salt on hers but I put probably 3 tablespoons’ worth of brown sugar on top, since I wasn’t allowed sugar at home.

  • Amanda

    You should get a grapefruit spoon. It’s a spoon with a serrated edge so that you can scoop out the segments easily when you’re eating it as a half. That way you can scoop around the pith. They sell them at a lot of kitchen stores: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/stainless-steel-grapefruit-spoon/s422444

  • Arlene

    Hi Adam,
    If you don’t want to miss a single bit of the grapefruit you may want to try the “supreme” method. Do it over a bowl to catch all of the juice.
    Here’s a link.
    http://chefinyou.com/2010/01/how-to-supreme-fruits/

  • H.C.

    ha, I view grapefruit halves like you view frisee (http://bit.ly/wDH86c) and I’m not alone in my abhorrence http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2012/12/grapefruit_is_disgusting_no_one_should_eat_it_let_alone_give_it_as_a_holiday.html

    and I’m surprised more restaurants don’t cut out the segments beforehand to make for an easy and infinitely less messy spooning experience for the diner.

  • Richard Hughes

    Try the Grapefruit Fluff recipe New York Times 1941- It makes a fabulous dessert!

  • Cary

    Salt and grapefruit are good together….ever had a Salty Dog cocktail….I think that’s what it’s called…

  • june2

    You need to plant a tangelo tree near by because grapefruit and tangelo together make the Best juice! You will drink your entire crop.

  • laura k

    Just reading about all this grapefruit is making my mouth water, but not in that delicious anticipatory way, more in that uncomfortable “this is too sour!” way. I wish I loved grapefruit but I have never been able to get into it. Maybe if I brulee it…

  • Jean Marie

    My mother used to sprinkle grapefruit halves with brown sugar and run them under the broiler. So good.

  • http://twitter.com/TvDoug In-the-Can TV

    My family’s pink grapefruit tree has produced sweet, wonderful fruit this year – I love the idea of sugar & mint topping as well as caramelized sugar (ala brulee) .

  • kat

    Try sprinkling with brown sugar and ginger and then putting in under the broiler for a few minutes until it look like brulee (I usually do at least 7 minutes). No blow torch needed!

  • grapefruit gal

    i grew up with people dousing grapefruit in sugar, and i wondered why i didn’t like it – all i could taste was sugar. I spent a year living in south america in high school, where people put salt on sour fruits – and i was transformed into a grapefruit lover!

  • Jackie the Ginger

    I for some reason have been all about grapefruits starting in January. But seeing this new cooked slightly grapefruit I’m all for it. I’m going to try this and see how it turns out. Thanks!

  • Mike

    my parents used to have a place in Phoenix back in the 90′s with 15 to 20 trees (mostly grapefruit but a couple of orange ones) and there’s nothing like a tree ripened grapefruit. i later found out that the supermarkets have their grapefruits picked green (to prolong their shelf life) so they miss out on the sweetness you get from tree ripening (they don’t really develop their sweetness until they’re perfectly ripe). i ordered a 30 lb box this year from The Arizona Orange company (i’m in the Pacific Northwest) as a treat for christmas and it took us back to that time when we were able to pick them off our own trees. do yourself a favor and if you happen to see a grapefruit tree while driving around LA stop and ask if you can try a tree ripened one (the difference is amazing).