Gourmet fruit salads

Fruit salads can be part of the summer fare during picnics and patio buffets.

As well as a fruit salad being a wondeful dessert on its own, fruits can add a delicious touch to other salads. Start with fresh fruit because it is more refreshing and there is plenty during the season.

Create delicious gourmet fresh fruit salads

Knowing how to combine the right blend of fruits in a salad, either alone or with other ingredients, is the first step to creating fruit salads that impress and delight your guests.

Combine ingredients that compliment

Certain fruits are better candidates for a combination of greens and fruit salad, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment a little to find new flavors you enjoy. Summer melons like honeydew and cantaloupe are always good, but a number of different fruits and berries are equally compatible with some basic greens such as romaine lettuce or other mixed varieties. Consider adding, for instance, grapefruit segments to add zip and zing to an otherwise traditional spinach salad. It's all about the flavors playing off each other.

If it's just fruit in the salad you're making, the sky's the limit as to what you might combine for a delicious treat with your meals. Lots of different berries are in season in the warmer months, so consider adding two or three different varieties to a more basic fruit salad made with bananas, apples, and grapes. A little splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice will help keep everything fresh.

Stick with a light dressing, like a vinaigrette that's not too strong or too sweet. This will allow the tartness and sweetness of the strawberries, mango, peaches, cranberries, or whatever you use to come through in the salad. And, don't forget the texture. Adding some roasted almonds adds a bit of crunch and depth in flavor to this type of salad creation. The salty flavor of the nuts also compliment the sweetness of the fruit. Using opposing flavors will often 'marry' the ingredients together, creating a perfectly blended compliment of flavors.

Create interest with one or two surprising ingredients

You only need a slice or two of an exotic, unusual fruit to create excitement in a salad. Star fruit, dragon fruit, dates, apricots, figs, and papaya are just some suggestions, and they don't have to be considered a dessert salad either. Combining one or two of these fancy fruits in a mixed green salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, shrimp salad, crab salad, or meat based salad could create quite a buzz at your next dinner.

Remember, there's also a selection of spices and herbs that do wonders to perk up a fruit salad. And don't just think about sweet spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Mixing hot pepper flakes or chili powder with sweet ingredients often is the perfect compliment. Savory herbs like rosemary, dill, and thyme are also surprising when used to enhance fruit salads.

When presentation matters the most

Special occasions may call for a salad that looks as good as it tastes. This is where you employ additional ingredients and combine colors and layers to make a presentation and a statement with your delicious creation.

Use a melon baller, for instance, to scoop up delicate pieces of the melons you choose. Then, include layers of color with blueberries, blackberries, sliced cherries, or raspberries. Garnish your fruit salad with lemon balm or mint leaves for extra color. Other fruit favorites include fresh pineapple, kiwi, or tangerine slices. Think about shapes, sizes, and color, then mix and match for a salad that looks as good as it tastes.

Mixing fresh fruit with creamy layers of vanilla pudding is another pretty salad to serve guests for a special dinner party. Add a little whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top for a final touch. A similar look is possible by mixing cream cheese and condensed milk together for the base that holds your favorite fresh fruits.

Drain your fruits well before combining them, then you can even make a gourmet version of the old fashioned fruit salads found on holiday tables many years ago. Make it gourmet by using crème fraiche and lots of fresh fruit, including berries, and even roasted nuts.

These suggestions are just a quick look at the possibilities for making gourmet fruit salads using your imagination and good taste. Having a healthy appetite for adventure will spur on the type of creativity you'll need to make splendid fruit salads that are an unexpected pleasure.

Fire up the grill for glamorous gourmet fruit salads

We've been trying to keep our meals light and interesting, and our grill has played center stage. Now if you're thinking that grilling is all about heavy meals of barbecued meats, you'll be surprised what other foods actually are perfect for the grill.

Setting the Stage for Grilled Fruit Salads

If you're mixing your grilled fruit in a green salad, be sure to choose your salad green carefully. Grilling adds a deeper flavor to fruit, so something hearty like arugula, romaine, watercress, or a mix of colorful greens might be best to form the bed of the salad and to compliment.

A grilled fruit salad also does well with a light vinaigrette dressing, made from basic ingredients like olive oil, salt and pepper, and your choice of vinegar. However, you might enjoy a creamy salad dressing made with honey and yogurt. Or perhaps a mixture of brown sugar, heavy cream, and red wine vinegar sounds tasty to you. There are plenty of possibilities to compliment your grilled fruit salad.

Choose fruit that suits the grill

Once you've got the stage set, then it's a matter of choosing fruits that grill well. Apricot halves are first up, combined with toasted nuts and thin slices of bacon, this makes a delightful gourmet twist with any salad green. Try grilling pineapple and mango slices, garnish with fresh mint leaves, and mix with crunchy cold butter lettuce for a surprising salad that will really please your dinner guests or family.

Even fruits like plums, watermelon, peaches, and nectarines are good to grill for salads and it doesn't have to be a large salad of greens, either. For instance, cut watermelon into four inch squares and grill quickly on one side, flip and grill on the other side until you see grill marks form. Then serve on a bed of arugula and top with feta cheese, and drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over. You now have a gourmet salad with just a few ingredients. Grilling the watermelon makes all the difference.

A grilled fruit salad could also be exclusively made with grilled fruit. Try grilling a whole pineapple, cut lengthwise in half, treating the pineapple as the fruit bowl. Top with small pieces of fruit such as red pears, kiwi, bananas, or cactus fruit and set the grill on high, grilling just until the pineapple chars a little. Remove from the grill and serve as is or with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Both halves of the pineapple becomes the salad itself.

Mixing up main dishes with grilled fruit

For a heartier main dish, try putting chunks of fruit on a kabob skewer alternating with firm pieces of fish like halibut, swordfish, or salmon, or shrimp, scallops, or even pieces of chicken. Grill until everything chars a bit, then serve over brown rice. Most people expect kabobs to have vegetables, so the grilled fruit makes a nice surprise. Of course, some vegetables compliment certain fruit, as well. Sweet onion on the kabob adds a nice flavor contrast to pineapple, for instance. Just use your creativity when you put your fruit kabobs together for the grill.

Grilled fruit can also be a garnish for beef, chicken, fish, or even ham. Cut wedges of papaya, mango, pineapple, and maybe a red pepper and sweet onion, and grill until slightly charred. Then cool and cut into small pieces and toss together with a light vinaigrette. This grilled 'fruit salsa' makes a perfect garnish. Make it spicy or savory if you wish by adding hot sauce, a bit of cayenne pepper, or some fresh herbs.

Don't forget grilled fruit desserts

A variety of fruits can be grilled to produce a tasty topping for ice cream, pound cake, or other treats. Grilled bananas topped with ice cream and caramel sauce is a favorite that comes to mind immediately. You can even put chunks of chocolate on while the bananas grill to create another layer of flavor.

Fruit compote made on the grill is another twist on a favorite. Rather than just boil or bake fruit pieces in a pan with a liquid, put the fruit on the grill on high heat, quickly grilling until you have grill marks and the fruit is softened. Move the fruit onto a piece of heavy duty foil, top with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and honey. Then seal the foil into pouches and continue cooking on the grill until fruit is very soft. The grilling adds a whole new flavor to your traditional compote.

If you have never considered putting fruit on your grill, this is your chance to experiment. It's surprising how many fruits cook up so well on the open pit. Once you have your fruit grilled, you'll find all sorts of ways to enjoy them. You may become so hooked on grilling fruit that now find it will be hard to make room for the barbecued meat!