The Key to Better Fruit Salad Isn't More Sweetness

It's, well, the opposite. End summer on a delicious note with this genius tweak.

August 28, 2019

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Nope, we’re not going to tell you to eat all of the heirloom tomatoes. Or crunchy cucumbers. Or ears of buttery corn. Because we’re guessing you’re already doing that, right? The dish that we want you to make before the summer’s over is... drumroll... fruit salad! But not just any fruit salad — savory fruit salad.

Forget everything (well, most things) that "fruit salad" brings to mind. The excessive chunks of unripe cantaloupe and honeydew. The occasional halved grape that the person before you didn’t see first. The sweet orange juice dressing. The mint leaf garnish. That’s your mom’s version of fruit salad, and you’re your own person, darn it.

This summer is all about sweet-and-savory fruit salads. They take a cue from the dessert world, in which sweet and savory combinations have recently blown up (is it even a cookie if it doesn’t have flaky salt on top?).

Let’s kick off this conversation by discussing the modern fruit salad's base. Don’t limit yourself to, well, fruit. To help you reposition the dish, think of it as "salad with fruit in it." Slicing up some ripe and juicy melon? Consider throwing in some crunchy sliced Persian cucumbers or fennel too. Have a few gorgeous peaches? Mix in some sliced heirloom tomatoes, torn Castelvetrano olives or radicchio leaves. Starting with a huge watermelon? It loves to be paired with something spicy, like thinly sliced serrano peppers.

Think about adding a variety of interesting textures to your fruit salad. Creamy or flaky cheeses, from burrata to aged Parmesan are great mix-ins. As are crunchy toppers, like chopped peanuts, pistachios and even sesame seeds.

Instead of a sweet dressing, try drizzling on something you’d normally use to dress tender leaves of lettuce. Good olive oil, flaky salt and freshly cracked black pepper, for example, is a simple but magical combination that’ll elevate any fruit medley. A squeeze of lime juice instantly intensifies fruit flavor.

Finally, garnish away with spices and herbs. After you’ve tossed everything together, topping your creation with a spice like sumac or crushed red pepper flakes can add a lot of complexity. Finish everything off with a handful of herbs, like torn parsley, basil or yep, even some mint. Try arranging your fruit salad on a plate or platter — instead of a big bowl — to let all of the different shapes and textures shine.

If you’re thinking about where to get started, here’s a quick way to distill everything we’ve discussed into a savory fruit salad formula: fruits and veggies + cheese + a crunchy nut + a spice + herbs + tangy dressing.

Want a roadmap? Here are a few recipes to get you going.

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Photo by: David Malosh

David Malosh

Tomatoes, strawberries and watermelon get dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, flaky salt, black pepper and chopped tarragon.

ThaiSalad_240.tif

Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

Zest up honeydew and cantaloupe with Sriracha, lime juice, peanuts and mint.

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Photo by: Sang An

Sang An

This salad is amped up with a simple drizzle of apple cider vinegar.

The secret ingredient? Fish sauce (and some fried shallots).

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