Remember when salad was just “salad”? It had some lettuce, a few bits of tomato and cucumber and maybe some avo if you were lucky? Fruit salad is still a bit like that isn’t it? Some melon, some apple, a couple of grapes and a few pieces of strawberry if you’re lucky. That fruit salad needs a facelift. And with these seven steps, your next effort will be nothing short of spectacular.
1. Make it seasonal
The very best results will come from using fruits that are in season. In-season fruit is better quality (lasts longer), has the best flavour and is the best value. And if you’re not sure what’s in season, follow us on Instagram and read our weekly Market Update.
2. Choose ripe, but not too-ripe fruit
Fruit that is just-ripe will have the best texture for a salad. You want each piece to keep its integrity and hold up on a fork. If your fruit is leaning towards the far side of ripe, keep it for smoothies (or puree it into a drizzle sauce for a dressing).
3. Keep it clean
Before you toss your salad make sure all your fruit is stemmed and pitted. This will make every bite a happy one (nobody wants to chomp down on a cherry pit). Think ahead before you lob in slices of banana, apple or pear – these have a tendency to oxidise and turn brown over time, so if you really want to invite them in, toss in lemon or lime juice just after slicing.
4. Consider shape and size
You want your salad to look as good as it tastes, so think about how you’re going to slice and dice. For a bit of fun and retro novelty try a melon baller. Or alternatively, use cookie cutters to press out shapes from fruits like melons and pineapple. Both of these options leave a bit of excess though, so try and repurpose the leftover fruit into a juice or smoothie. If you’d prefer stick to a regular old cutting it up with a knife, then try and keep the size of your pieces uniform.
5. Choose your stars
It’s easy to be bamboozled by choice when there’s so much great fruit in season. Try and think of your fruit salad like a teenage pop group. There’s not really room on stage for any more than five at a time. And the same principle applies here. Each member needs to bring something unique to the group. And it helps to start with the star. Choose one fruit to feature then select your supporting acts to both highlight and contrast with it. If you’re ever concerned about whether flavours pair well together, you can always lean back on the principle of colour from acclaimed chef Alain Passard. His theory is that fruits and vegetables with hues that sit near each other on the colour wheel naturally taste good together, as they have a similar balance of sweetness and acidity. So when in doubt, combine the reds of strawberries with watermelon, lychees and raspberries, or the yellows of pineapple with mango, banana, passionfruit and papaya.
6. Pick a contrast
Out of your fruit salad there should be at least one element that provides some contrast, whether it’s visual or textural. A striking colour or pattern like the spotted appearance of dragon fruit, or curious shapes of star fruit can do it. Or else a finely diced herb can add an interesting counterpoint. Mint is a classic inclusion, but you could also try tarragon (like in this salad with watermelon, cherries, blackberries and plums), basil or lemon thyme. Other things to think about are a nut for some crunch (pistachios work very well – check out this fruit salad with figs, apricots, raspberries and mint) or toasted coconut flakes for a tropical twinge.
7. Play with a dressing
Like most salads, fruit salad can benefit from being glossed with a little dressing – even if it’s served on the side. A spritz of citrus, whether lemon, lime, orange or mandarin juice can help keep things lively. Aromatics like rosewater, vanilla extract or sweetened balsamic vinegar can be cracking when used sparingly (a few drops go a long way). A creamy co star also rarely goes astray, whether it’s a dollop of yoghurt, crème fraiche, coconut yoghurt, marscapone, double cream or custard. And if you really feel like pushing the boat out, a lick of booze can take things to another level. Light fruit flavoured liqueurs like limoncello, Poire William, Cointreau, Kirsch, Grand Marnier or St Germain Elderflower liqueur are all fun (adult) inclusions.
Rather than take these as gospel, use these principles as jumping off points to experiment to your heart’s content. The good news is that if you’re using the best of the season, there’s no real way to stuff this up. (But if you want some more inspiration, check out these three recipes.)
Fig, Apricot, Raspberry and Pistachio Fruit Salad
Pineapple, Mango, Lychee and Coconut Fruit Salad
Crimson Fruit Salad with Tarragon
About Tori Haschka: Tori is a food writer and published cook book author. She’s the author of two books – 'Cut the Carbs!' & 'A Suitcase and a Spatula', the app ‘Poppyseed to Pumpkin’ and the blog http://eatori.com. She and her son Will can be found in the aisles of Harris Farm Manly at least three times a week.
Did you like this post? Here's some others from Tori: