Fruit salad

The summer-produce inspirations continue: I made a really smashing fruit salad today, so I’m writing down the “recipe” for future reference. It’s more a technique than a recipe, which is great because it means once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll never need an actual recipe to look at.

Summer Fruit Salad

Really you could make this with any good sweet ripe fruits, but I loved this particular combination (see below for how to make your own with different fruits).

1 white peach, diced
1 white nectarine, diced
1 yellow nectarine, diced
1 half-pint mulberries
2 small tangerines (I used Ojai Pixies), peeled and separated into sections
1 handful kumquats, halved or sliced
zest of 1 lime
the leaves (small and large) from 1-2 sprigs of mint (1 very leafy sprig, or 2 sparse)
2-3T of melted jam, or sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until sugar is dissolved)

In a good-sized bowl, mix together diced fruit, berries, tangerine sections, kumquat pieces, lime zest, and syrup or jam. Add in small mint leaves. Cut any large mint leaves into thin ribbons and add those too.

Let this macerate (sit around so the flavors will deepen) for a while before serving.

You don’t have to have mulberries to make a good fruit salad! Here’s how to make your own out of what you’ve already got.

Two keys to making a good fruit salad:
(1) Use fruit that’s ripe, but not squashy or bruised. You don’t want your salad to be a pile of mush. Also, firm fruit is easier to chop, and the texture will soften a bit after macerating. If you don’t already know this, farmers’ market fruit will almost always be better than what you can buy in a regular supermarket, because supermarket fruit is picked before it’s ripe (the more delicate ripe fruit is too easily damaged in transport). On the other hand, be sparing with naturally hard fruits like apples, unless you want a crunchy salad.

(2) Cut the fruit into small pieces; I like a half-inch dice. If the pieces are too big you won’t get enough of a mix in each bite, and if they’re too small, the individual fruits won’t retain their integrity.

How to choose the fruits for your own fruit salad:
(1) No one wants to eat a fruit salad that’s sometimes sweet, but sometimes sour; you want the salad to be pleasantly sweet above all. Make the bulk of the salad from sweet fruits: peaches, nectarines, tangerines, mangoes. Then add additional sweetening (sugar syrup or melted jam).

(2) Variety keeps things interesting. While the salad should taste sweet overall, you don’t want it to be cloyingly so. Berries add a little bit of tartness. Kumquats (used sparingly) add a hefty kick of tartness, but with a sweet aftertaste.

(3) Food that’s visually attractive is more appealing. Berries add a splash of color; as well, they and the kumquats bring in a different visual texture than just chopped-up fruit. If you’re using strawberries, don’t use a great deal of them or else add them right before serving so they don’t get squashy and dye everything red.

(4) Fruit salad should be refreshing and interesting to eat. A tiny bit of mint makes it feel more refreshing on the tongue, but don’t add so much that the salad tastes strongly of it. Likewise, just a bit of lime zest adds an extra (but subtle) new flavor.

Fruit-salad-worthy event?
I’m finishing up the fruit salad now, even though I made it this morning, because we had sooooo much food for brunch. We went to Ying and Stale’s apartment to watch the World Cup final* and I’d brought the salad, a pint of strawberries, banana bread, pumpernickel bread, smoked Cheddar and baby Swiss. Is that enough food for breakfast for four people? Well, we shall never know, because in addition to what we brought, Stale and Ying had made macaroni and shrimp salad with homemade mayonnaise, another fruit salad, fresh whipped cream, Caprese salad, and proscuitto with Parmesan, and they had Norwegian brown cheese, and Stale had baked fresh yeast rolls and a lovely cake made of ground almonds and topped with yellow custard. So we ate ourselves silly.

Moral of this story
This is what happens when four cooks and two bakers who don’t have enough friends to cook for in this city get together for a feast.

* Rather a disappointing match, I thought, since the poor players looked so tired by the second half. Though I’m glad Italy won, because I like their goalie, because they haven’t won in a long time, and because of what Zidane did to their player!

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]