Friday, August 14, 2009
FRUIT SALAD WITH MINT
On Tuesday night, I had to pick A up at the airport at an awkward hour of the evening: several hours after the end of the workday (I work right next to the airport), but too early for me to drive all the way home in rush-hour traffic and then all the way back. Luckily, my friend M, who lives on the airport side of town, graciously allowed me to impose on her family’s hospitality and spend the post-work/pre-airport time at their home. They even fed me a tasty dinner. I owed them big time—but luckily, at least the fruit salad I brought turned out to be delicious.
A fruit salad is always a nice option to have at a potluck, barbeque, or picnic (although as a non-eater of most melons, I always feel conspicuous as I try to pick around the omnipresent cantaloupe and honeydew therein), but I never crave fruit salads in my everyday life. Good fruit doesn’t require any adornment, and eating a single fruit at a time is fine by me. Fruit is usually the easy side dish or afterthought in our meals, requiring no more preparation than washing and cutting, and I don’t see the point in complicating things. But then I saw this recipe, originally adapted from Giada de Laurentis, on Cheap Healthy Good, and it sounded so good, with the mojito-like flavors of mint and lime plus the intriguing addition of almond flavoring, which I love. I could make it with three of my favorite fruits—strawberries, blueberries, and peaches (I would have added watermelon, which is frequently paired with mint, but I was at the farmers’ market alone and already had too much to carry without the addition of a huge, heavy melon). I could make it ahead of time. And making simple syrup, prepping the fruit, and whirling the dressing ingredients together in a blender sounded like a manageable amount of work for a Monday night.
I was not wrong. The salad was a little soupy when I served it the next evening (I blame a bunch of the blueberries, which turned out to be squishy right out of the package), but I loved it and it was well received. I had been a little worried that so much mint would dominate the fruit, but it didn’t—blended into the dressing, the mint added a bright, fresh flavor without tasting like a stick of gum. The dressing was sweet, but not too sweet. The salad was supposed to yield 10 servings, but we three adults and two kids pretty much polished it off (well, I had also set aside about a bowl of it for A at home). I will definitely be making this again, and not just for parties, but for regular old home eatin’. What a perfect, refreshing dessert for a hot summer day.
You can use just about any summer fruit you want in this salad (the original version had watermelon and the dreaded cantaloupe, while Cheap Healthy Good’s included mango), but here’s what I did:
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
3 peaches, peeled and cubed
⅛ cup simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water; see instructions below)
¼ cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
1. To make simple syrup, bring water to a boil in a small pot (I used ½ cup, because any smaller amount just seemed unmanageably tiny even for my smallest saucepan; leftover simple syrup can be refrigerated in a glass jar for up to 1 month, either to make more fruit salad later or to make beverages such as lemonade or cocktails). Stir in an equal amount of sugar until dissolved completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool (if you’re in a hurry, stick it in the fridge) while prepping fruit.
2. Wash, peel, and chop fruit as desired.
3. In a blender, combine simple syrup, lime juice, chopped mint, and almond extract.
4. Toss dressing over fruit.
5. Chill (overnight is good) and serve.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.