It’s Time to Revive Fruit Salad
A classic summer treat, upgraded
A few weeks ago, I was wandering around the farmer’s market on Kollwitzstrasse on a warm and sunny Saturday. I was offered samples of sliced apricots and white peaches—I accepted without hesitance. They were fragrant, firm, and juicy. Fruits are at their most tempting in the summertime and this specific bite made the concept of peak summer light up and become tangible to me.
Fruit is a regular guest in many brilliant salads. However, fruit salad itself is often memorialized as cubed apples and bananas packed sadly in a supermarket fridge or a bakery counter at a train station. When I grew up, fruit salad was even coated in mayonnaise, which I would probably never recreate as an adult who’s required some taste since working as a food editor.
That’s why I need to do justice to fruit salads. Fruit salad can be glorious: aesthetically plated, packed with flavors, and more exciting than your tub of cubed apples in every which way. It can be a perfect appetizer for summer parties, picnics, and even as a light dinner, if you are looking for a no-cook option packed with vitamins and possibly less calories.
Choose your fruits
Rule of thumb: Think bolder than bananas.
I do appreciate “a bit of everything” in cooking, but for new-generation fruit salad, I would actually limit to 4 types of fruits, otherwise the dish will lose its focus. Either go in the direction of color coding, or choose those that belong to the same group, ie. a melon salad with honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
Choose your fruits wisely.
Choose ripe, juicy, and fresh fruits. Seasonality comes first: A peach salad belongs to summer and an orange salad should enjoy its peak flavor in winter. Sometimes, unconventional choices like dragon fruit or fig will bring some freshness.
Think of your fruit salad in terms of flavors. Try to balance the sweetness with some acidity or even bitterness—yes, I’m talking about citrus fruits here. Don’t forget about texture either. Some crunchy fruit (cucumber counts) will be the perfect match with softer fruits like strawberries.
Prepare them creatively.
Let’s debunk the myth that fruit salad equals cubed fruit. This is a great time to experiment with cutting to showcase your fruit in more flattering shapes: cut melons into thin wedges or slices; oranges into thin circles; stone fruits into chubby wedges; and papaya into long strips. Be creative like what I did with the green papaya salad:instead of julienning, I shaved it and played around with the shape.
To make fruit salad even better
Fruit salad isn’t just about fruit. Like many other salads, there are ingredients that will level up the texture or round out the flavors, such as nuts, seeds, and cheese. Nuts and seeds add a crunch, which will balance the juicy fruit. Don’t worry too much about how to pair nuts with your fruit—almost any nut will taste wonderful. A bit of roasting will bring that nutty flavor out. More crunchy options include coconut flakes or granola. Flecks of sesame and poppy seeds add a bit more texture and contrast to a bowl of bright fruit.
Cheese lends a subtle saltiness to balance out the natural sweetness of fruit. For this, two mild, creamy sortiments can’t go wrong: mozzarella and feta cheese. Blue cheese works great with pears as well. Find those enduring combinations. My simple summer pleasure comes from a plate of stone fruits, like white peaches, nectarines, cherries—and burrata. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and serve with a handful of mint leaves.
Meat and fruits have a longtime marriage in many cuisines. Remember prosciutto e melone salad? Some cured meat or crispy bacon will shine brightly in your fruit salad. The only rule here is to don’t over do it—let the fruits shine through.
How to dress your salad
Without dressing, a salad is never a salad. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and some fresh soft herbs—mostly basil and mint—are all you really need to keep it minimal.
A classic basic dressing for fruit salad is honey plus the juice and zest (important!) from a citrus fruit, popularly lime. An oldie but goodie. You can easily swap out honey with syrups and lime with other citrus fruits or apple cider vinegar. A few drops of vanilla extract, or liquor (rum, tequila) will level the dressing up.
Looking for something more creamy? Add a dollop of yogurt or quark. Don’t mix it beforehand for the sake of presentation.
Try something new: spice and aromatics
Spice sounds bold, but will give your salad real character. It’s beyond tasty in an unexpected manner. In fact, fruits with spices are popular in many regions of the world, such as south Asia and south America. Chaat masala, my new favorite spice mix, is used in fruit chaat, a traditional Indian-style fruit salad. Gather your fresh cut fruit, sprinkle chaat masala all over the top, and there you have it.
Similar magic comes from Mexican Tajin seasoning, which has become a lifestyle according to the New York Times. The good news is that you don’t have to run to a specialty shop to find it. Simply adding a sprinkle of chili powder, red pepper flakes or fresh chili will be enough to give your fruit salad that extra kick, like in this mango chow recipe.
Recipes to inspire
Still want some inspiration? Start with our fruit salad recipes and other recipes with fruit!
Published on July 31, 2020