July 18, 2010
Summer Fruit Salad
I adore fruit salad.
That is, I love fresh fruit. Fruit salad, as found in restaurants (often under the name "fruit cup" or simply arriving unannounced on the side of your brunch) is often lacking. The most heinous of the many crimes against fruit salad are as follows: too much filler (melon, canned pineapple, citrus sections from a tub), cut too long in advance (I'm pretty sure I've had some that were cut days before they got to me), fruits that don't complement each other (apples mixed in with soft stone fruits), the poorly cut (giant hunks of one fruit, tiny slivers of another) and, finally, what I think of as "interference" - some sort of nasty syrup poured over all as a "dressing".
Fruit salad is not difficult, and in the summer it need not be expensive. I eat fresh fruit year-round, when I can, and I therefore end up eating fairly seasonally, although I confess to occasionally succumbing to raspberries grown in Mexico in the dead of winter. In summer in Vancouver, there are explosions of local berries to choose from, and gorgeous stone fruits from the Okanagan. An embarrassment of riches, really.
While I'm not a hardened locavore (we don't grow papaya or mango around here), I do like to purchase the local version of those fruits that do well in our climate. The salad above contains local organic strawberries and blueberries, as well as papaya (not so local). I thought the combination of colours was pretty, and I find that generally three well-chosen fruits together make a very nice balance. I dressed it the way I dress most fruit salads (the non-dessert-y ones, anyway), which was simply with freshly squeezed lime juice. That's all you need, really, for most fruits.
This salad was made for a friend's bbq afternoon, and I was tickled pink when our host told me that it was the first time anyone had ever brought a fruit salad that wasn't full of things he hated. Perhaps that was luck, but I suspect it's because I didn't go the cheap filler route.
Now, before you think that I'm some crazed melon-hater, I should tell you that I rather like melon. We don't have it in the house due to allergy issues, but I have nothing against fresh melon, in season. I tend to prefer it on its own, but I've had melon-ball salads that were all different kinds of melon, and were absolutely delicious - but that's because it was someone using melon specifically to execute a particular effect, and not simply as coarsely-cut filler to reduce expenses. I also like fresh pineapple - one of my go-to fruit salads is the trio of fresh pineapple (diced small), kiwi, and blueberries - all drizzled with lime juice, naturally. Such a pretty combination of colours, with the green, yellow and blue. So delicious!
Getting back to restaurants, though, I know that one of the problems is that of suppliers. If you want the favourable, stable pricing from your supplier, you need to arrange a full-year gig, not just getting fruit in when it's not in season in your own backyard. This is why you can get limp, colourless tomato slices on your burger at the height of rioting tomato season. It's a tragic pay off, really.
So, in the summer, I eat a lot of fruit. I take fruit salads to work for my lunch as often as I can, and I take great delight in trying different flavours and combinations. It's pretty low effort for most fruit - maybe a bit of peeling and chopping, but for five or ten minutes' work, you get a splendid salad that cheers you right up at lunch time.