August 24, 2009
I grew up with a strange sense of family—if you ask me about them, I’ll say, “They’re all in India. But my real family…” My parents have always been the only people I am related to by blood on the entire North American continent. Actually, in the entire Western hemisphere. There are relatives in India whom I feel close to, but they have always been a long plane ride or static-y phone call away.
So my immediate sense of family has never been about blood or marriage, never about people to whom I was “actually” related. In fact, I’ve grown to kind of resent the implication that blood is somehow thicker than water, since all of my blood relatives lived two oceans away and didn’t know me. Why do I need to be related to someone for them to be my family—and just because I am related to someone, what does that mean? Why should I care about someone just because we share the same DNA?
My real family is the one my parents, then I, now Jill and I together, have chosen and created for ourselves. I use the terms “sister,” “brother-in-law, “nephew,” freely, even though they don’t technically hold water. Jill and I might not have a legal certificate that affirms such, but I have a mother-in-law who makes the best fried okra in the whole world, and a father-in-law who loves my chocolate cake. These are the people who know me, who see me roundly and regularly, who have the authority and intimacy to nickname me and tease me.
In my book, adopted family is family, and so I proudly present this fruit salad, inspired by my best friend’s father, Bill, (also the father of our Blue Jean Sommelier), who in the last few years has become a kind of father to me and I am so grateful to him for it. He’s generous and kind and loves food, so it’s truly as if we are related.
His is really a stellar, unusual take on fruit salad—tastes fresh, keeps well, and works with pretty much any combination of fruit (excepting bananas). It’s a no-brainer in the summer, when the options are endless, but what I especially love about this recipe is that you can adapt it for the winter, using citrus, apples, even jicama for crunch.
BILL’S FRUIT SALAD
Bill says the key is to cut the fruit into smaller pieces, approximately half-inch cubes or slices. I know halving the grapes may seem like a pain, but it makes a difference in the overall taste, I promise. If you’re wary about the flavor of the crystallized ginger, feel free to cut back a bit.
Feel free to use any combination of fruit (adding mango, kiwi, orange segments) and keep in mind that this recipe double easily.
½ pineapple, cubed
1 bunch green grapes, halved lengthwise
1 pint strawberries, hulled & quartered
1 pint of blackberries, whole
juice of 1 lime
2 T crystallized ginger, minced very finely*
½ cup sliced, NOT slivered almonds (Bill toasts his before adding them)
To start the salad, place the ginger in a big bowl with the lime juice—this will help distribute the ginger flavor throughout the salad. Toss in all of the fruit and leave, covered, in the refrigerator for as long as you like. Mix in the sliced almonds close to serving so they’ll keep their snap.
* I recently made my own crystallized ginger following this recipe and wow is it about 100 times more delicious than the storebought stuff (not to mention cheaper!)