Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Ambrosia has moved on to more of a fruit salad these days, here made with apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, pecans, coconut and maraschino cherries, but it started out very simply once containing oranges and coconut.

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Ah, ambrosia... a southern favorite for sure. Classic, old-fashioned ambrosia had only two ingredients though - oranges and coconut - served most often with a dressing of simply orange juice and sugar. It's fallen out of style these days though, because most folks aren't interested in something so plain, but that, my dear, is a true southern ambrosia.

To make it, you'll use about one large naval orange per serving desired; two if they're smaller. For 4 servings, working on a ridged cutting board to capture any juices, section 4 naval oranges. Start by cutting off both ends of the orange, then run a sharp paring knife down the curved sides of the orange rind, cutting just into the flesh and removing all of the white pith, so that only the flesh of the orange remains.

Section the orange by running the knife along the inside of the membrane of the orange for each section. Once you do the first one, you can slide the knife down the next section, then under and up the other side to remove a section and move along fairly quickly that way. Most of us learned this from our grandmothers, but this process is referred to in the culinary world as supreme.

Place a single layer of oranges in a storage or serving bowl, or individually as pictured above. Pour any accumulated juices from sectioning over the oranges. Sprinkle very lightly with granulated sugar to taste, only if oranges are more on the tart side. Layer in with grated coconut. In days past, that would have been freshly grated from a raw coconut. Later, canned or frozen, thawed coconut might have been substituted. These days, it's more likely than not, shelf stable sweetened flaked coconut.

Repeat layers and if you're so inclined add a sprinkle of amaretto or other sweet liqueur over the oranges. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight. Serve as is for individual servings, but if making in a large bowl, toss and spoon into small dessert bowls to serve, spooning accumulated juices from the bottom over each serving. Simple. Delicious. Elegant. The real deal.

These days, I'm afraid ambrosia has moved more into the category of a fruit salad however, and I'm as guilty as the next person to adding all sorts of other goodies to the traditional version.

Most ambrosia, even that referenced in the movie The Help, has a varied mixture of fruit, ranging from oranges, to apples, pineapples, pears, even grapefruit. It's served with some kind of dressing - often sour cream, whipped cream or yogurt based.

My preference is still a juice-based dressing.

I like mine with a mixture of fruit, and that is why I call my version an Ambrosia "fruit salad." The type of fruit you use is relative to what you prefer, as are the amounts, though generally at least one thing is common to all ambrosia recipes and that is coconut. I say use what you like, what you have and what makes you happy.

If I have some seedless red grapes, I like to add a handful of those too, halved - I just didn't have any on hand at the time of making this one. What I've listed here is a 4 to 6 serving base, depending on the individual serving dishes you use. It's good for about 4 of those you see in the tall glass pictured above.

Do you still make a classic ambrosia? If not, what fruit is included in your version, and how do you dress it?

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Posted by on November 13, 2008

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