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There Is Such a Thing as a Great Fruit Salad

Fruit salad does not have to resemble baby food. Really.

5/24/2020 1:11:00 AM

Fruit salad doesn't have to just be underripe pineapple and strawberries.

Fruit salad does not have to resemble baby food. Really.

.__Dear Rick,__Last weekend I made a fruit salad with mangoes, peaches, plums, blueberries, and raspberries to cap off a friend’s cookout. But it tasted like baby food. The flavors didn’t blend together the way I thought they should, and then it just ended up being a soupy, mushy mess that got even sadder once it spent 10 minutes in the sun. Is there such a thing as a good fruit salad? Help—I want to believe.

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Thanks,LolaOh, Lola,The perfect fruit salad starts with amazingly ripe, delicious fruits (obvs). But it also needs textural contrast, a good dressing, and something unexpected to keep the palate awake and alive.Plum-Fennel Salad with Honey-Ginger Dressing. Photo: Marcus Nilsson

Marcus NilssonMaking fruit salads is all abouttiming. Starting with fruit with firm (but not too firm) texture helps prevent mush. Summer fruit is phenomenal, but it also has a very short shelf life—and an even shorter window of optimal ripeness, usually one day max. On that one day, the fruit is sweet, juicy, and slightly tart. You essentially have to catch fruit in that brief but beautiful 24 to 48 hour period.

If your fruit is underripe, that's another problem altogether—and there is a cheat for it. If the fruit is one day short of ripe, leave it in a paper bag on your counter and watch as it magically transforms into ripe fruit the next day. If it's way too firm for just the overnight bag trick, you'll need sugar and acid to soften it. In the same way that you marinade meat to add flavor and tenderize tough cuts, adding sugar and acid to chopped, firm fruit will add flavor and will eventually soften the flesh. To do it: Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar to a pound of firm plums cut into thin wedges and toss until plums are completely coated. Cover and chill for 1 to 3 hours. Any longer than three and you will end up with mush—guaranteed. If they're still firm after three hours, you need to rethink what kind of seriously underripe plums you bought.

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Lemon Cream. Photo: Marcus NilssonMarcus NilssonWhen picking your fruit, think about flavor and texture. Pick one ormaybetwo superstar fruits and build the salad around them.Identify the talent; love the talent. If the fruit is soft—say, a ripe peach, papaya, mango—pair it with something firm or even crisp. Try mixing your raspberries (soft) with something crunchy (say, apple, grapes, pears, or pineapple). Think about color and shape: What will give you a striking contrast? Consider ingredients beyond the fruit stand: cucumber, fennel, carrots, or even celery. Adding toasted, salted nuts or seeds can add depth and a welcome savory hit to sweet, ripe fruit too.

Read more: Bon Appétit »

I’ve literally never heard of anyone thinking fruit salad was just underripe pineapple and strawberries.

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