You know those food memories that swirl deep in your brain? I’ve got one for ambrosia. My grandparents used to make it every Christmas, a stripped-down version that included fresh orange and grapefruit sections, sliced bananas, shredded coconut and maraschino cherries. They left out marshmallows – I happily discovered that creamy version years later – and if nuts were included, I emphatically directed my spoon around them. In fact, I tended to avoid the grapefruit, too, in favor of the sweeter oranges, mild bananas and gaudy cherries. The way those flavors mixed with tropical coconut was a transformative diversion for picky kid weary of casseroles.
Every Christmas, I make my own version of ambrosia salad and it always includes coconut. Fresh fruit salad is a great way to use fresh local citrus, which I always have in abundance from our backyard orange trees. I’ve always been a fruit fanatic and I appreciate the possibilities of a composed fruit salad. At the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse, the birthplace of farm-to-table cooking, chef founder Alice Waters commented in an interview with Fresh Air on the power of the locally sourced fruit bowl on the restaurant’s dessert menu. “It’s something that takes a lot of discernment on the part of the cooks,” she said. “…choosing just the right moment for that fruit and connecting with the farmers at the right minute — to bring just the right taste to the table.”
I can get behind that. But I also appreciate fresh fruit because preparing it for dessert is so much faster and easier than tedious baking. From marshmallow-y ambrosia to fruit salad scented with mint and crystalized ginger, there are endless options for turning the local bounty into something memorable.
Pomegranate Ginger Fruit Salad
Note: this salad benefits from a stay in the fridge overnight to meld flavors and soften textures.
6 oranges, sectioned
1 grapefruit, sectioned
2 bananas, sliced
1 pint blackberries
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, diced
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Carefully combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Cover tightly and allow to sit overnight before serving.