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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Longtime friends of PTMYB will recognize this as the time of year where the lack of local fruit leaves me a bit edgy.  The farmer's markets are still selling apples, picked during the autumn and held in storage.  Depending on the varietal, they can still be good to eat, but to my taste they are a little woolly, best used for baking, or for one more batch of apple butter, or applesauce.   Rhubarb won't be available for another month, berries and stone fruit for at least another month to six weeks after that. 

Two weeks ago, on one of the first really warm, soft Friday evenings of this spring, I was on the Upper West Side,  walking down Broadway on a visit to the bath-product emporium.  Two doors down from the shop, I saw a crate of pink grapefruit sitting outside a little grocery.  I picked one up, scratched it with my fingernail and inhaled; there it was, the scent that carries me through every winter, bracing and sweet, invigorating and soothing all at the same time.  It felt as if there were at least five pounds of juice underneath the peel, clamoring to get out.  All of the grapefruit in the crate were uniformly taut and smooth and glossy and heavy.  The price was right.  Oh, marmalade, I thought.  I had never made marmalade before, but I had a good feeling that I could make a nice one with these; after all, I had Kimberly on my side.  Kimberly's appreciation of grapefruit is both boundless and inspiring, and her recipe for pink grapefruit marmalade has been hovering in my thoughts ever since she posted it in February.  I bought six grapefruit.  I would make pink grapefruit marmalade with them.  I would share it with my friends.  If I liked it well enough, I would buy more grapefruit and add marmalade to the Bakerina Kitchens repertoire.

Reader, there is no marmalade to be had.  The grapefruit sat patiently in the kitchen over the weekend.  On Monday, for reasons I still can't figure out, I picked one up, inhaled, thought, well, I can still make marmalade with what I have left, and took it to work.  I ate it upon my return from the gym, the reward for my good behavior.  On Tuesday I did it again.  On Wednesday I ate it for breakfast, exactly the pick-me-up my foggy, truculent brain needed.  When the last one had been eaten, I felt a little bad, as now there were none left for marmalade.  On the other hand, I was full of grapefruit, so I didn't feel *that* bad.  smile

Like Kimberly, my introduction to grapefruit came via my childhood breakfasts.  My mother was unyielding in her refusal to let me eat sugary cereals for breakfast, but she despaired over the amount of sugar I managed to put on Cheerios.  Grapefruit was the field of compromise between us:  yellow grapefruit (why the sign at the supermarket said "white grapefruit" was a mystery to me), one half for each of us, the sections loosened with a paring knife, sugar sprinkled across the top.  I was allowed to sugar the top of my grapefruit, to my great relish; Mom knew that I would not develop scurvy any time soon, to her great relief.  It wasn't long before I tried to expand my grapefruit repertoire:  I tried a recipe from the first cookbook I ever received, The Nancy Drew Cookbook, for George's Keep-in-Shape Grapefruit, a grapefruit half slathered with brown sugar, run under the broiler, creme brulee-style, and finished with a maraschino cherry.  This taught me three important lessons:  eight-year-olds should not attempt brulee toppings without adult supervision; scorched sugar smells terrible and kicks up a lot of smoke; and under no circumstances should maraschino cherries ever be broiled.  I then decided to try something simpler, based on a suggestion in a catchy jingle from the Florida Citrus Commission:  peeling and sectioning a grapefruit, the same way I did with oranges.  I underestimated just how bitter the pith and membranes of a grapefruit could be.  That put an end to the experimentation for a good long time.

I can't remember the first time I tried pink grapefruit, or its deeper red Texan cousin, the Ruby Red.  I do remember liking the freshly-squeezed juice of pink grapefruit much more than that of the white grapefruit, so much so that I decided to try the peeling-and-sectioning exercise again, this time with a Star Ruby.  I never looked back.  I was meticulous about getting every inch of bitter pith and membrane off the fruit, and I was rewarded with pure sweetness, sunshine bursting forth from every vesicle.  Now I am more low-key about the whole exercise, and I appreciate a slight hint of bitterness to cut the sweetness; I still try to get as much pith off as possible, but I don't bother with the membrane.  It makes for easier eating.

Of course it was a matter of time before I would want to branch out, to go beyond the eating of grapefruit out of hand, and to try my hand at grapefruit-based desserts. I started with red grapefruit sorbet, which to me is like eating half a dozen grapefruit in a single sitting.  To me this is a good thing, but others may find this to be an extreme position.  If you are in the mood for something richer, I can enthusiastically recommend grapefruit creams, a pudding from the beautiful Sophie's Table by Sophie Grigson, basically fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, sugar, eggs and cream, thickened by the merest hint of semolina.  (If you are British, and were subjected to thick, scary semolina pudding as part of your school lunch, I promise you that this particular pud is nothing like them.)  My copy of Sophie's Table is buried under a passel of other cookbooks, but I will tease it out, and I will post a recipe for anyone who wants it. 

But if you don't fancy a custard, how about a cake?  Paging through my copy of Butter Sugar Flour Eggs: Whimsical Irresistible Desserts by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto and Julia Moskin, searching for another recipe for a chocolate pave, I found a recipe for Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit-Cream Cheese Frosting, a big, soft layer cake with a sweet-and-sour crumb, lavishly iced with a frosting made from confectioner's sugar, cream cheese, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lemon peel and the peeled sections of the grapefruit that were not squeezed into the batter.  I would make this cake right now, if only I didn't have to get a good night's sleep for tomorrow's thrill-packed adventures at LuthorCorp.  Of course, there is always the weekend, but as I have other plans for this weekend, Brown Derby grapefruit cake will have to wait.   It can't wait too long, though.  Rhubarb's coming in soon.

Posted by Bakerina at 11:25 PM in incoherent ravings about food • (3) Comments

Friends don’t tease friends with almost-offers of grapefruit marmalade.

Just teasing.  ‘Cuz I know that such teasing won’t destroy a good grapefruit high.

The moment you find more you know my address.

mouse on 04/20/06 at 02:20 AM  

Lindy, it’s almost frightening how much we think alike.  smile That mystery pudding is indeed on the agenda for this weekend, but because I’m a glutton for punishment, it’s not the only one.  But more will be revealed in time…

Bakerina on 04/21/06 at 11:56 AM  

Och, where did my manners go?  (Such are the hazards of trying to draft a reply in the midst of a busy round of boxfactorying.) Once again, I never fail to be touched and impressed by the sheer kindness and good humor of the people one meets on in the internet.  Thank you all, dear friends.

Jamie, I do not have that Pillsbury book, and now I want to try grapefruit meringue pie more than anything.  smile

Bakerina on 04/21/06 at 11:59 AM  
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