When I was a little girl, my mother and much older half-sister seemed always to be dieting.
For weeks, they would eat nothing but poached chicken and grapefruit, or so it seemed to me.
There were other, stranger diets, and when I look back I realize that the foundation of them all was the cigarette, lit every time they felt a pang of hunger.
But the grapefruit-chicken diet is most vivid in my memory. I think they were allowed a couple of stalks of celery each day, too, and I recall overhearing that both grapefruit and celery required more calories to digest than they contain. Grapefruit burned fat, too, I heard them say.
These beliefs persist today, even though they've been disproved time and again.
But grapefruit, and celery, too, for that matter, are delicious and fit into just about anyone's diet. I love both for their unique flavors and their bright clarity on the palate.
Grapefruit has had my attention lately because, not that long ago, a box of Florida citrus arrived on my porch, a gift from a dear friend who spends winters at her family home in Vero Beach. What a treat it has been.
The California citrus industry suffered a tremendous blow during the December cold snap, though there has been citrus at our farmers markets so far this year.
DeSantis Farms, which attends the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market, sometimes has a green-flesh grapefruit called Sarawak. If you see it, get it. It is one of the most delicious fruits I've tasted, with a delicate flavor and less bitterness than some other varieties of grapefruit.
For more grapefruit recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, including pork tenderloin with grapefruit, citrus salad and grapefruit mignonette, visit "Eat This Now" at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
This dish, which makes a lovely first course, is inspired in part by a recipe in "Risotto," a book by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman (Collier Books, 1987) and in part by ground cardamom from the Local Spicery, which attends two farmers markets in Sonoma County.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
<em>3 tablespoons butter</em>
<em> 1 tablespoon olive oil</em>
<em> 1 large or 2 medium shallots, minced</em>
<em> — Kosher salt</em>
<em> 5 cups homemade chicken broth</em>
<em> 1 teaspoon ground cardamom</em>
<em> 1 1/2 cups Italian rice, preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano</em>
<em> 1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice</em>
<em> 3/4 cup grated Vella Dry Jack or Valley Ford Estero cheese</em>
<em> — White pepper in a mill</em>
<em> 1 tablespoon freshly snipped chives</em>
<em> 6 grapefruit sections, all membrane removed, diced</em>
Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a deep saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft and fragrant, about 7-8 minutes; do not let brown. Season with salt.
While the shallots cook, pour the broth into a saucepan; add the cardamom and set over low heat to keep warm.
Add the rice to the shallots and saute, stirring continuously, until each grain turns milky white, 2-3 minutes. Add the grapefruit juice and stir until it is completely absorbed by the rice.