The crimes of fruit salad are many: not ripe, over ripe, tart, bitter, warm, rotten … Because of these transgressions fruit salad has become the “Fruit Cake” of summer barbecues – a popular dish that only the brave eat.
This week I made a Himalayan inspired Fruit Salad (just mango, red banana, and papaya) for our Bhutanese Global Table. In my interpretation, I decided to avoid the many pitfalls of regular fruit salad and serve it as elegant finger food. In this format each piece of fruit shone – sweet mango, earthy papaya and buttery bananas in the middle. Incredible.
Pop one and you. can’t. stop.
I dare you to try.
5 Keys to a Great Fruit Salad
1. Never use pre-cut fruit.
Ever notice how pre-cut fruit in plastic boxes tastes… fizzy? A tad chemically? The salad is an unsatisfactory blend of unripe cardboard fruit (usually the pineapple), mixed in with overripe, bruised, fungus fruit (often the grapes). Awful. Serve pre-cut fruit to a bitter enemy, if you must, but never serve the stuff if you’re going to hang your reputation on the salad.
Trust me. Trying to impress your boss or mother-in-law? Do yourself a favor and get fresh fruit.
2. The fruit must be ripe.
The rule is simple. If the fruit is not ripe, do not use it.
The biggest single problem people have is they buy the fruit the same day they need it. The bananas are green, the mangoes taste like crunchy lemons, and the watermelon tastes like, well, water. Get the fruit a few days before the party. This will give the fruit time to soften and the sugars increase. If things still seem under-ripe the day before the party, go ahead and put the fruit in a brown paper bag. This will speed things up.
3. Buy fruit in season.
Fruit tastes better in season. Strawberries are a great example. Right now they taste incredible – sweet, juicy, red bites of heaven. The rest of the year they taste like sour cardboard. Experiment and try a new fruit every week in the summer – here in Oklahoma there are a ton of peaches to try. Or, go wild, and try a papaya.
4. Cut the fruit at the right time.
Many people cut fruit way ahead to let the juices mingle and “sweeten” each other up. I call this the “fruit cup” effect, where all the fruit tastes exactly the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it.
I prefer to cut perfectly ripe fruit within an hour of eating it. That way the flavors remain distinct. When I eat a mango, I want to taste a mango. When I eat a banana I want to taste a banana.
5. Try an unusual presentation
Present your fruit in a fruit bowl made with half a watermelon, cantaloupe, or papaya. Or try putting squares on skewers, toothpicks, or mini forks (maybe with a honey yogurt dip). Do something unexpected and your guests will love it.
Unconventional? Yes. Incredible? Yes!
Here’s how I cut the mango:
Here’s how to clean out a Papaya
And here’s the tasty red banana:
Stack em up!
Here’s the recipe
2-4 bananas (I used the sweeter red banana)
1. Cut all fruit into nice cubes/even sizes.
2. Stick onto toothpicks, with the creamy banana in the middle. Serve immediately.
NOTE: You can also make these a little ahead, but remember bananas brown.