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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.

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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.

<strong>Grapefruit Risotto</strong>

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.

Begin adding the broth, ? cup at a time; stir almost continuously until it is nearly completely absorbed before adding more. Continue until there is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup remaining and the rice is almost completely tender; it should take 18-20 minutes.

Fold in the cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter and several turns of white pepper. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Add about ? of the chives and the remaining broth. Remove from heat.

Ladle the risotto into soup plates and spoon some of the diced grapefruit over each portion. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve immediately.

<em><strong>Variations:</strong></em>

- Serve over a bed of greens, such as wild (small-leafed) arugula or EarthWorker Farm's salad mix with onion grass.

- Top each portion with 2 or 3 sea scallops seared in brown butter and top with a generous drizzle of Grapefruit Vinaigrette (see recipe below).

- Serve alongside sauteed Petrale sole.

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This salad takes just minutes to make if you have roasted or poached chicken on hand, which I almost always do. If you do not care for cilantro, use fresh snipped chives instead.

<strong>Avocado, Grapefruit, Celery and Chicken Salad</strong>

Makes 4 servings

<em>— Grapefruit Vinaigrette (recipe follows)</em>

<em> 1 avocado, cut in thin lengthwise slices</em>

<em> 2 cups cooked chicken, preferably thigh meat, torn into bite-sized pieces</em>

<em> 2 or 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into thin diagonal slices</em>

<em> 1 grapefruit, cut into its individual sections, all membrane removed</em>

<em> 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves</em>

First, make the vinaigrette and set it aside.

Fan 1/4 of the avocado over individual plates.

Toss the chicken and celery together and mound it alongside, not on top, of the avocado. Spoon grapefruit over the chicken.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over everything, sprinkle cilantro on top and serve.

<em><strong>Variation:</strong></em> Replace the chicken with fresh Dungeness crab, with or without the celery.

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This recipe is adapted from one in my book "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Vinaigrettes-Other-Dressings-Sensational-recipes/dp/155832805X" target="_blank">Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings</a>" (Harvard Common Press, 2013). The book's version calls for cardamom seeds, which need time to blossom fully. At a cooking demonstration at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair a couple of weeks ago, I used ground cardamom instead, as you can't really expect an audience to sit and watch the blossoming. The ground cardamom was so fresh and so beautiful that it added a new dimension of flavor to the grapefruit.

<strong>Grapefruit Vinaigrette</strong>

Makes about 3/4 cup

<em>1 small shallot, minced</em>

<em> — Kosher salt</em>

<em> 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice</em>

<em> 2 tablespoons best-quality Champagne or white wine vinegar</em>

<em> ? teaspoon ground cardamom</em>

<em> — Pinch of sugar, optional</em>

<em> — Black pepper in a mill</em>

<em> 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil</em>

Put the shallot into a small bowl, season with a pinch or two of salt, and add the grapefruit juice and vinegar. Let sit 10 minutes. Add the cardamom and taste the mixture; if it seems a tad flat or bitter, add a pinch or two of sugar. Add several turns of black pepper and stir in the olive oil.

For the best flavor, use immediately or within an hour or two.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 &amp;amp; 91.1 FM. Email Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>