What's in season

What’s in Season: Sweet on Grapefruit

A Texas chef shares a surprising secret for making the most of a winter favorite

Illustration: John Burgoyne

A few years ago, chef Aaron Bludorn, a veteran of New York City’s renowned Café Boulud, moved to his wife’s home state of Texas—and he brought his love of all things bitter with him. “It’s one of my favorite flavors,” says the executive chef and owner of Bludorn in Houston. “Negronis are my go-to, and I love radicchios, black coffee, and, of course, grapefruit.” Once called “the forbidden fruit,” the grapefruit made its way to Texas in the 1800s via Spanish missionaries. The famous Ruby Red was discovered in the 1920s and spawned other red grapefruit varieties, which became popular for their subtle sweetness. That flavor peaks in the winter months, so now’s the perfect time to pick one up at the farmers’ market (or order directly from a Texas or Florida farm). If you select your fruit, the chef recommends scraping a little of the skin with your nail. Give it a sniff, and you’ll have a good indication of the flavor. It should also be heavy for its size, which lets you know it’s plump with juice. For a main meal that celebrates this seasonal treat, turn it into an herby winter salad (see recipe) to pair with salty seafood. Of course, you can always just halve the fruit and scoop out the segments for a healthy breakfast. But even if you’re not a superfan of bitter foods, resist the urge to dust it with sugar, which just covers up the beautiful flavor. Instead, use a trick Bludorn learned from his grandfather: Sprinkle it with salt, which helps tame the bitterness and brings out the fruit’s natural sweetness. Oh, and that delicious zest you sniffed makes one heck of a simple syrup for cocktails. “Grapefruit are so fresh this time of year,” Bludorn says. “They’re sweet and slightly bitter, firm and juicy. They’re a real delicacy.”


  • Easy Winter Grapefruit Salad (Yield: 4–6 servings)

    • 1 bulb fennel, shaved (on mandoline) or sliced thin

    • 1 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)

    • 1 tsp. olive oil

    • 1 lemon, juiced and zested

    • 2 grapefruit, peeled and segmented, and zest of 1 grapefruit reserved

    • 1 tbsp. capers, chopped

    • 10 oil-cured black olives, sliced

    • ¼ bunch parsley, chiffonaded

    • 10 mint leaves

    • ¼ tsp. fennel pollen

    • 1 tbsp. bottarga


  1. In a bowl, season fennel with salt, then fold in olive oil and lemon juice. On a plate, lay out grapefruit segments, and place shaved fennel on top. Sprinkle with capers and olives, and garnish with parsley, mint, fennel pollen, lemon zest, grapefruit zest, and bottarga. Sprinkle sea salt on top and serve with fresh seafood (Chef Bludorn recommends seared sea scallops).

  2. TIP: You can find fennel pollen in the spice department at most specialty grocery stores. Otherwise, ground fennel seeds are a good substitute.