Summer is the perfect time to serve a fruit salad, either as a refreshing accompaniment to other dishes or as a healthy and gorgeous dessert. The best fruit salads, to my mind, are simple and well balanced in flavors, textures, and colors. This fruit salad relies on only three fruits, in three different vibrant colors, to carry the show: strawberries, mangoes, and avocados (yes, avocados are a fruit!).
Consider this recipe as merely a template. If you do not like strawberries, substitute watermelon. If you do not have any mangoes, try cubed cantaloupe. Add in blueberries if you have them on hand. And if you have never treated avocado as a fruit, now is a good time to go for it—the addition of avocado makes this fruit salad especially modern and unexpected in both taste and appearance. Whatever fruits you choose, though, do aim for a nice mix of colors and make sure to cut your fruit into similar-size pieces. We eat as much, if not more, with our eyes as we do with our palate.
Modern Fruit Salad
1 pound strawberries, preferably organic
2 mangoes, ripe but still slightly firm
2 avocados, ripe but still slightly firm
2 to 3 limes, juiced
Fresh basil or mint (optional but recommended)
- Wash strawberries and dice into bite-size cubes.
- Peel and pit the mangoes and avocados, and dice them into equal bite-size pieces. If you want to do this ahead, hold off on peeling and dicing the avocado until just before serving, as avocados brown quickly when exposed to air.
- Combine the three fruits in a serving bowl, and add the fresh lime juice, to taste.
- Garnish with chopped basil or mint, if desired.
- Modern Fruit Salad with Quinoa. Mix one serving of fruit salad into one serving of cooked quinoa for a refreshing and filling meal or snack.
- Modern Fruit Salad with Greens. Top your favorite raw greens—such as spinach or kale—with a serving of the fruit salad and dress lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Modern Fruit Salsa. Use this fruit salad as you would a salsa: serve on the side of a cooked piece of fish or chicken or serve along with jicama sticks or endive spears as an appetizer/dip.
Mangoes and avocados must maintain their shape and their integrity to hold their own in the salad. Dicing mangoes and avocados requires seeking out fruit that offers some give when you push on the skins but is not too soft. If your fruit is too soft, it is best for purees or mashed options (for a guacamole, for example).
In the early 1980s, the California Avocado Commission , with the sexy Angie Dickinson as spokesperson, started promoting avocados as a 17-calorie fruit, which was true only if you ate a very skinny sliver of avocado. This was back in the day when we cared more about the calorie count of foods than their overall nutritional value. Fast-forward to today, where we realize that avocado are a fantastic, nutritious addition to our diet: avocados are a tremendous source of healthy omega-6 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats that help boost good (HDL) cholesterol and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. If you are concerned with calories, be aware that a serving size is one-fifth of a medium avocado.
Basil and mint are from the same family (Lamiaceae) and therefore make good substitutes for each other. Notice how both basil and mint have a squared-off stem, dissimilar from parsley, where the stem is rounded. Because fresh mint has limited seasonal availability, grab it when you see it and use it anywhere you would use basil. Fresh mint is also delightful infused in your water!