Are fruit salads one of these things that I assume everyone in the world makes, but really, it is just my family? It could be, but I still think they’re essential. There is nothing better to break up a brunch of cheesy baked eggs and breakfast bread puddings, and dessert courses that seem to be a chain of pies, gooey brownies and cakes than than a big bowl of fruit. Of course, a bowl of whole fruit rarely works as anything but a centerpiece, and this is where the salad part comes in.
In the summer, it is a cinch–berries are flawless and everywhere, not to mention mangoes and cantaloupes and watermelon. But unless you want to buy imperfect, frighteningly overpriced berries with thousands of food miles on their backs, fall and winter can make something as simple as chopped fruit kind of dull.
I adapted this one–which I brought to the loveliest brunch yesterday, along with those scones–from a lovely Amanda Hesser article now almost seven years old where she maps out a Christmas brunch that can be entirely prepared the day before, as all brunch foods should be, in my opinion. My best friend’s mother has made the original version of the fruit salad every December 25th, but at home, I like to punch it up a bit, adding pomegranate seeds, lemon juice and dialing back the sugar. Nevertheless, it remains a mellow, almost soothing bowl of fruit, a perfect complement to all of those cold winter mornings ahead.
Two years ago: Jacked-Up Banana Bread
Winter Fruit Salad
3/4 cup sugar
3 star anise
1/2 of plump vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
8 dried Turkish apricots, cut in half
4 dried figs, quartered
4 2-inch long pieces lemon zest (peeled with a vegetable peeler) from a Meyer lemon if you can find one
Juice of the zest lemon
3 firm Bosc pears
1 firm tart apple
Seeds from half a pomegranate
1. Fill a medium saucepan with 4 cups water. Add the sugar, star anise, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, and cook until all the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool for just a few minutes (it should still be hot) and then stir in the dried figs and apricots. Let it cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, peel and core pears and apple. Slice thinly lengthwise and place in a large bowl, and toss with the lemon juice.
3. Once the syrup with dried fruit has cooled, pour it over the apples and pears. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it overnight in the refrigerator.
4. The next morning, using a slotted spoon, ladle the fruit into a serving bowl, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and serve. Remove the vanilla beans (you can rinse and save what is left of them for another use) and lemon peels if you wish, or leave them in for decoration.
Do ahead Syrup can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a day or two. Hot syrup can be poured over the dried fruit and kept in the fridge for a day or so. Prepared salad keeps in the fridge for a day or two, but is best fresh.