My father is a man of infinite patience. Believe me, I know — I tried his. And while there aren't many recipes that make up his culinary repertoire (rotelli with ricotta and tomato sauce was actually a pretty satisfying classic), the one he's most known for is the quintessential demonstration of that patience — citrus salad.
Walk into the kitchen on a weekend during the winter, and there he'd be, sitting at the table next to two boxes of grapefruits and oranges that my grandfather had sent from Florida, peeling each piece of fruit with a paring knife, the long peel most times hanging down to the floor in one long piece like some crazy citrus curlicue pig tails. Not only would he often cut off the peel in one piece time and again, he'd then somehow perfectly divide each orange and grapefruit segment, keeping them virtually all intact.
And when he was done, there would be several containers of orange and grapefruit salad sitting in the fridge, each one half filled with the delicious juice that would form when the two fruits mixed. It's really such a simple fruit salad. Almost equal parts grapefruit and orange, but usually a bit more grapefruit. Tart, sweet segments bursting in your mouth together unlike how you ever really eat either fruit. No bitterness from the pith! And cold! This treat requires nothing else. No sugar, nothing. Sure you could add a touch of mint, but you really don't need it. In the summer it's a refreshing treat, and in the winter it reminds you of warmer times. For years, I reaped the benefits of his patient work without trying my own hand at it.
So in the past few years, I've taken a stab at it myself. Now it's not like I don't have any patience, or am without knife skills. But no matter how many times I try, I just can't get all the segments to be as perfect as he does. So recently, I asked him about his philosophy and technique. "I've actuallly stopped peeling with the paring knife — it actually tends to remove more of the fruit and it takes too much time, but you know, I've had quite a bit of time to practice this."
He's right. A few decades, in fact. So to try to accelerate the process and introduce my own touch to the salad's flavor, I've added pomelo to the grapefruit and orange, which is much easier to segment. Funny for how long it takes to make, how quickly it disappears.
To fancy up Pop's citrus salad, chiffonade a handful of mint and gently toss it with the fruit suprêmes.
- 3 grapefruits
- 6 oranges
- 1 pomelo
Peel the grapefruits, oranges, and the pomelo. Gently pull them apart in half. Start separating the grapefruit suprêmes. The goal is to keep maintain their integrity as much as possible. If you peel away the segment from the inside edge out, you should be able to open it up enough to slip in a paring knife on the other side and separate the fruit. Repeat until you've completed on fruit, reserving the segments in a bowl, and piling up the inevitable pile of little parts you can't separate (your mistakes). When you've finished the individual fruits, squeeze the juice out of the pile into the bowl. Repeat until you've finished all the grapefruits, oranges, and the pomelo.