I know: it sounds weird. I thought the same thing the first time I encountered grapefruit pudding. It was at a cookbook club meeting, one that I’d helped plan, around The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. The meeting was in October, which made Apple Upside-Down Cake the logical choice for dessert. To me, at least. “But that’s so expected,” my planning partner lamented, “let’s do the grapefruit pudding.”
“It’s a seasonal cookbook,” I insisted with my trademark self-righteousness. Self-righteousness never wins. It’s a clinically proven fact.
I was a little miffed about the grapefruit pudding, to be honest. But then I remembered that the whole point of joining a book club is to stretch and grow, to expose yourself to ideas and viewpoints and preferences that are not like your own, to challenge your beliefs and assumptions, to become A Better Person. Plus, I ate that grapefruit pudding and it was damn good.
I think of it often at this time of year. Of all the seasonal transitions, winter to spring is the weirdest. Last weekend we got 18 inches of snow — big, fat flakes of heavy wet snow that knocked down trees and power lines. On Monday morning when I left for work, it was 0°F; driving home on Wednesday evening the thermometer read 57°F. Then more snow, and now back to balmy. She’s a fickle creature, that Mother Nature.
I, however, remain steadfast in my devotion to grapefruit as a bridge from winter to spring, and grapefruit pudding is especially lovely for these fickle in-between days. It’s soft and warm and comforting, with a reassuring richness that’s beautifully balanced by the refreshing zing of grapefruit. The top bakes up light and airy, and the tender, cake-like crumb gives way to a bright citrus-y custard with a pleasant — almost amusing — springlike jiggle.
recipe from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, by Michelle & Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson with Catherine Price
Winter is magical. I generally have to be reminded of this. Often. Having grown up south of the Mason-Dixon line, I don’t have a natural affinity for things like ice and snow and frostbite, but other people do, namely my Midwestern husband and his Midwestern friends. We had company last weekend— friends from Chicago who came up to ski. And they did ski a little, but mostly I think they came up to open our back door, take deep breaths of frigid northern air and shout, with arms outstretched, “Who wants to go walk barefoot in the snow?” (no takers)
On Sunday afternoon while everyone skied I made après-ski cocktails. I stood by the windows in our cozy kitchen absentmindedly squeezing grapefruit juice as I admired the sparkle and shimmer of soft winter sunlight on freshly fallen snow. When the skiers returned, flushed and exhilarated, I mixed the grapefruit juice with rosemary-infused honey and the warm, comforting notes of bourbon and set a jug out on the counter. And the skiers said, “Oh thank you, but I like my bourbon straight,” and, “Hmmm, I’m not really a big fan of bourbon,” and, “Oooh, that looks great; I think I’ll have a beer.”
Midwesterners. I tell you what.
So I’ve been drinking Brown Derbys all week and reveling in the vivid sparkle of late winter. Grapefruit and bourbon and rosemary would taste perfectly nice any time of year, but the bright, herbaceous sweetness is particularly lovely against the bracing chill of February. This is a late afternoon cocktail, a sipping sort of cocktail, a cocktail to enjoy with friends. And if you decide to go tromping about barefoot in the snow, you’ll want a few of these in you for sure.
recipe adapted from Bridget Albert & Mary Barranco’s Market Fresh Mixology
There’s absolutely nothing local about grapefruit, but you know what’s available locally right now? Turnips. There might still be a couple winter squash in my basement, but mostly it’s turnips. I’m not even sure I like turnips, so when a coworker mentioned that her daughter’s school was having a fruit fundraiser I succumbed to the siren song of citrus and ordered twelve pounds of grapefruit. Twelve pounds sounds like a lot of grapefruit, but it’s really not. The fruit was delivered last Friday and when I arrived at work the following Monday eager to chat with my friend and fellow grapefruit enthusiast Katie, she’d nearly run out. “What did you do with them?” I asked, hoping for a brilliant recipe I’d not yet discovered. “I just ate them,” she answered.
Oh. That honestly hadn’t occurred to me.