FOOD - August 1995
This time of year, fresh fruit salads are great favorites with my family. Many people, when they talk of fruit salad, think of pears and cottage cheese dressed with mayonnaise. My personal response to that is, blaaah!
When I think of fruit salad I think of the freshest assorted fruits of the season combined with little, if any, dressing. There is a theory that fruit salad must be composed of at least two or more fruits. The actual derivation of the word salad comes from the Latin "salata" which means seasoned. I guess, technically speaking, a salad is a salad because it has a dressing, not because of the variety of fruits and vegetables.
I don't think it matters which fruits are put together. They blend well in almost any combination. One could mix all possible fruits in season to make a Macedonia di Frutta or one could select fruits with a scheme in mind. For example, let color be a guide to choice, such as black grapes, black cherries and blueberries; or kiwis, green grapes, honeydew melon and pears. One could choose a theme of all berries, all melons, all tropical fruits or all citrus. Asian markets now provide access to some exotic fruits canned such as litchi, jackfruit or longan. These mix well in combination with fresh fruits.
Choosing the unexpected always creates interest. Adding a small amount of dried fruit such as diced candied ginger, pitted prunes, golden raisins, figs or finely chopped candied peel add texture and interest. It makes one hungry just thinking about it.
If a dressing is needed use citrus juices or peels. Enhance the flavoring by adding one or two teaspoons of rose water or orange flower water (purchase in some pharmacies or liquor stores), or add 1/4 cup liqueur such as maraschino, kirsch, triple sec, or Galliano. Rum and marsala and some sweet wines such as muscat also mix well with fruit. The non-alcoholic Torani flavored syrups could also be used. Try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of flavoring extracts such as almond, anise or rum. Add a little sugar or honey (or not) as desired, keeping in mind sugar tends to draw out the natural juices of the fruit.
For serving a composed salad, use a large platter, covered with a blanket of edible leaves to absorb juices and leave the plate looking presentable after the fruit is gone. Arrange contrasting colors side by side. A crystal bowl nestled in a bed of crushed ice looks enticing filled with small cut pieces. Tall stemmed glasses work well for fruits macerated in wine or liqueurs like chunks of fresh pineapple on a scoop of lemon ice topped with a little creme de menthe and a sprig of fresh mint. Serve assorted fruits on a bed of fruit sherbet or sorbet.
Fruits should be in prime condition, not too ripe so they become mushy. They should be pitted or seeded but peeled as desired. Leave the fruit in rather chunky pieces (bite size) so it remains identifiable except in recipes such as Tropical Fruit Peruvian where all the small pieces blend to create one fruity flavor. Unless cut-up with other fruits, strawberries look best left whole with stem intact.
To prevent fruit such as pears and peaches from discoloring, toss with citrus juices or dip them briefly in a little water or fruit juice to which is added 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or ascorbic acid. Generally berries and bananas should be added to fruit mixtures just before serving to keep them at their best.
For those guests who were expecting something a little sweeter or more substantial if the salad is to be dessert, serve side dishes of Pina Colada Custard for dipping or Chocolate Fondue and or assorted small cookies such as macaroons or biscotti. The following recipes are some interesting fruit combinations. (No mayonnaise please!)
This tropical fruit sundae looks appetizing in a tall stemmed glass. Freeze scoops of ice cream ahead of serving time for ease of preparation.
1/2 fresh pineapple
4 scoops coconut ice cream
1/2 cup sweetened crushed strawberries
8 thin mocha-flavored, wafer-style cookies
Peel, seed or core fruit, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and mix together. For each serving, place #/4 cup fruit in a stemmed glass, top with a scoop of coconut ice cream and 2 tablespoons crushed strawberries. Stick two cookies in the side of the ice cream.
Macedonia Di Frutta
A classic fruit compote that makes use of all the fruits in season takes the name of Macedonia because it is a collection of fruit put together as Alexander the Great united mixed races in this area. The success of this recipe depends on combining a large variety of fruits.
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 lemon, juice and grated peel
2-3 pounds of assorted fresh fruit: apricots, apples, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes, mangos, cherries
1/2 cup sugar, more or less
1/4 cup maraschino liqueur or orange or anise
Combine orange juice, lemon and peel in a large bowl. Wash, core, peel or pit the fruit. Grapes should have seeds removed. Cut fruit into bite size pieces and combine with the juices, coating so they do not discolor. Add sugar and liqueur. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Stir carefully once or twice. Serve in glass dishes or in half of a scooped-out cantaloupe shell nestled in crushed ice. Note: Berries should be added just before serving to prevent them from becoming soggy and staining other fruit.
Rainbow Fruit Salad
Delicious served for breakfast along with assorted muffins.
2 oranges, peeled with a knife and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
Grated peel and juice of 1 lime
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups cantaloupe balls
2 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 basket strawberries
Toasted almond slices and coconut
Combine oranges, orange juice, honey, lime peel and juice and nutmeg. Cover and chill several hours. Remove oranges, reserve syrup. Layer all fruit in a glass bowl. Drizzle syrup over all and chill. Pass almond and coconut at the table.
Summer Fruit Salad
Candied ginger and dried prunes flavor this fresh fruit dish. Serve for breakfast or dessert.
3 peaches, peeled and cut in bite-size pieces
2 pears, cut in bite size pieces
2 oranges, peeled with a knife and cut into chunks
2 cups green grapes, stemmed and cut in half
6 pitted prunes, diced
1 tablespoon candied ginger, minced
1/4 cup frozen pineapple concentrate.
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Pina Colada Dip
Besides being a good dip for fresh fruit, it stands alone as a pudding and keeps well refrigerated for several days.
2 cups good vanilla custard
1 teaspoon rum or coconut flavoring
1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup low-fat sour cream
Cook custard; lay a sheet of wax paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. When cool, flavor with rum or coconut and fold in pineapple and sour cream.
Betty Thompson has taught cooking classes locally since 1974.
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