Monday, February 20, 2012

Food Cravings

The last few weeks have been a bit on the crazy side- between working trade shows, studying, and a recent trip to NYC, my blogging has been sadly, well, neglected.

To top that off, I have not been inspired to write-guess I have a case of writer's block on top of everything else.

But this past week an inspiration revealed itself and it came in the form of a craving. I have been noticing my food cravings more and more, thanks in large part to the coursework I am doing at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (aka- IIN).

First it was spinach and any kind of green really- and I still crave greens almost everyday so that is still great. But this past week, I suddenly had a craving for grapefruit. That ruby-colored sweet juicy citrusy fruit. What really amazed me about it though, is this craving directly coincides with the fact that grapefruit is in season right now! The best time to eat it is January through March.

So, I am wondering....did my body know this? How did it know this? Is it a matter of coincidence? I didn't crave them last year like I am right now. I think it could be part of the awareness I feel with what my body itself seems to know and I am just learning how to tap into that. I can't wait to see what I will crave next!

I know that a lot of us crave "bad" foods too- and I am no exception believe me! Salty snacks and  chocolate have always been my weakness. I do get cravings for these from time to time, but as of late, I am able to ask myself, "Do you really want that or are you just thirsty?" It seems that we often crave foods that are not so good for us when all the body really needs is hydration. I also learned a term recently called H.A.L.T.- which is hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I now ask: am I any of those things? This is where and when cravings for the wrong foods have the potential to kick in and we go down a road of binging and over-eating when all we need is to access what we are feeling in that moment.

But let's get back to the lovely, delicious and nutritious grapefruit! My favorite way to eat it is the old-fashioned way my Mom taught me (and her Mom before her). Just slice in half and cut the sections with a special grapefruit knife, use a spoon to eat it, and squeeze out and drink all the juice at the end.

 The best grapefuit knife in the world, above

 detail of the double blade

 Pink and red grapefruit are  packed with Vitamin C and have high amounts of vitamin A, potassium (325mg), folate (25 micrograms), calcium (40mg), and iron (1mg) and contain high amounts of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is know for lowering the risk of prostate cancer. Grapefruit stimulates appetite and possesses the unique ability to burn away fat. Grapefruit is a rich source of pectin. Pectin is a soluble fiber that helps to lower blood cholesterol.

My second favorite way to enjoy grapefruit is in a salad- some recipes actually use the juice in the vinaigrette so it really brings a fresh and light flavor to the greens and the rest of the salad.

Years ago I discovered The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and instantly fell in love- I probably made everything in that book over the years! Even dined at the restaurant in San Francisco and what a treat that was. I still make her Butter Lettuce and Spinach with Citrus and Avocado Salad and that is what I will share with you here. The combination of the soft butter lettuce, the dark spinach and the brightness of the ruby jewels of grapefruit, make a winning combination. The avocado is the creamy icing on the cake that brings it all home. Hope you will enjoy. I highly recommend using the Szechuan peppercorns if you can get them- they add a flowery fragrance-toast them first and grind with a little salt- omit the the fruit vinegar and use all sherry vinegar instead. Here is the recipe with a few of my adaptations.


serves 4-6

  • 1 head butter lettuce, limestone, or Bibb lettuce
  • 1 small bunch young spinach leaves (or one bag of baby spinach leaves)
  • 2 ruby grapefruit 
  • 2 avocados
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry or other fruit vinegar 
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • 6 to 7 tablespoons virgin olive oil or a mixture of virgin and light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mint, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chives, finely sliced 
  • Black pepper or Szechuan peppercorns

Separate the leaves of the lettuce and remove the spinach stems. Discard any leaves that are bruised or yellow, wash the greens–the spinach in two changes of water– and dry them in a spinner. (skip this step if you are using the bagged spinach) If the spinach leaves are small, leave them whole. If they are large, layer several leaves together, roll them up, and slice them into wide or narrow ribbons. Place them loosely in a kitchen towel and refrigerate until needed.

Use a very sharp knife to peel the grapefruit. Slice a piece off the top and the bottom of each, then work down the sides, removing the white pith as well as the peel. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juice, cut each section loose from its membrane and turn it into the bowl. (Later you can drink the juice.)

Peel the avocados, slice them in half, and remove the seeds. Lay the halves cut side down and slice them crosswise at an angle.

Combine the vinegars, shallot, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in the oil or mixture of oils. Taste, and adjust the balance of vinegar and oil if necessary. Stir in the mint and chives.

Pour the juice off the grapefruit sections, combine them with the avocado slices, and dress them carefully with some of the vinaigrette. Toss the greens with the rest of the vinaigrette and lay them on salad plates. Set the grapefruit and avocado slices in and among the leaves. Add a grinding of black pepper (or roasted Szechuan pepper) and serve.

What are some of your favorite grapefruit recipes? Please share them in the comments section!