Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tips For Making Fresh Fruit Salads

I love making fresh fruit salads to enjoy as part of my meal, a dessert or a snack! There are endless combinations! You can create a rainbow of colours, various shapes, an array of textures and mouth watering flavours all in one bowl!

It always amazes me when I see recipes for fruit salads. Do we really need them? Well, maybe some people do, but I like to just look at what is available in fresh fruits at the store or a farmers market and go from there.

There doesn't have to be a set way of making any fruit salads BUT there are a few things to keep in mind as you mix and match your ingredients.

Maybe I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to a fruit salad, but I don't think that they should contain anything other than fruit. Preferably fresh fruits! The only exception to the fresh fruit rule for me is to add canned unsweetened pineapple tidbits and perhaps mandarin orange segments for additional colour or texture.

Personally, I've never liked trying to cut a fresh pineapple. If you can do it and you find a good one on sale - go for it! I'll use my canned pineapple any day! I also use a bit of the juice to keep fruits such as apples from turning brown once cut. You only need a couple tablespoons of the juice and the remaining juice can be used for a beverage, sauces, made into ice cubes or just frozen for later use. Whatever you do - DON'T throw out the juice from the pineapple or the canned oranges if using them!

So, what else shouldn't be added to a fruit salad? Well, in my salads, you will never find marshmallows, nuts, dried fruits or dairy products.

Why? Well, I'm not a fan of marshmallows, but they tend to go rather mushy and ooze into the rest of the salad if not eaten immediately. It makes any leftovers look very unappetizing. Nuts will also go soft and lose their crunch. Dried fruit is just plain unneeded when there are so many fresh options throughout the year. There are any number of dried fruit (cold) soup style recipes on the web if that is what you are looking to make. Dairy products look good for the first hour but then they start to go runny and will even go sour with the juices from the fruits. Dairy is better left as a per serving add-in.

If you think these things are a necessity, then create a condiment bar beside the fruit salad bowl so people can add their own "extras".

There are also some fresh fruits that should only be added at the last minute or for what you KNOW will be eaten that day. Fruits that are soft and can go mushy fairly quickly once cut, such as strawberries, raspberries and bananas.

A very firm strawberry may look and taste okay on the second day of a fruit salad but the riper ones will be mush. I'm not a fan of raspberries which will also go mushy after a day (can't stand the seeds and flavour is a bit too strong for my liking so never add them anyways). Bananas tend to go mushy very quickly and the flavour can permeate the whole salad very fast - leaving the whole thing tasting like bananas! Like marshmallows and dairy, bananas also tend to ooze and looks unappealingly murky after awhile.

By now, you may be asking what DO I put in my fruit salads? At least three of any of the following:
- grapes (red, green or black - halved and seeded)
- mango, (peeled pit removed) cut into bite sized pieces
- cherries, halved and pit removed
- honeydew or other melons cut in bite sized pieces
- peaches or nectarines, peeled pit removed and cut in bite sized pieces
- kiwi (just ripe), peeled and cut
- pears, peeled cored and cut (YA or Asian pears give a great crunch to a salad!)
- apples, unpeeled cored and cut into bite size pieces (I personally prefer Fuji, Gala or Red Delicious for pretty much any apple use)
- pineapple tidbits, with a bit of the juice for the dressing and to prevent other fruits from browning
- mandarin orange segments
- berries as a last minute addition and only enough for that days salad.

The cut fruits are loaded with liquids that will create a bit of its own dressing so I never "make" a dressing. Other than adding a little of the pineapple juice or perhaps a bit of orange juice or even five alive (both high in citric acid) to prevent the browning, I just stir them all together and let the flavours blend on their own. Granted, I have occasionally skipped the pineapple juice in favour of a more adult salad and added a very light splash of Amaretto or Frangelico.

If I have an abundance of fresh fruit, then I sometimes make a large batch of salad such as the one pictured here. It contained about 1 pound each of cherries and green grapes, 4 nectarines, 3 mangoes, 2 apples, pineapple tidbits and mandarin segments. 
Once mixed, I transfer to Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers and keep it in the fridge for several days. 
The colours of the fruits will darken a bit and will even take on shades of the redder fruits such as the cherries but the flavours and textures will still be distinguishable for up to a week as long as you haven't added any of the "extras" or softer fruits listed above. This particular one lasted me eight days - delicious flavours and textures to the end!

What do you serve a fruit salad with? They don't have to be served with anything as they are a refreshing snack or dessert all on their own. But, many people want to have a little "something" with their fruit salad.

Like the yummy fruit salads themselves, the "side" possibilities are endless! How about:
- with a spoonful of whipped topping or a scoop of your favourite ice cream, sorbet,sherbets or ices
- spooned over a serving of pudding (lemon or chocolate are my faves!)
- alongside a slightly warmed muffin, a slice of loaf or homemade cookies. (lots of recipe links for these on my recipe page!)
- alongside a scone - maybe even a chocolate scone!
- over fresh pancakes or waffles
- with a good old fashioned Peanut Butter sandwich or PB on toast

It's all about mixing and matching! Be creative. Savour the mouth-watering flavours of fresh fruit!



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