n my junior year of high school, my French class when to the Alliance Francaise in Chicago. My teacher had been coy about the whole trip, only saying that it would be a “cultural experience”, which is really such a French thing to say.
The Alliance Francaise is an organization focused on the promotion of the French language and culture. They regularly screen French films, host coffee clubs, offer Adult French language classes, and connect native and foreign French speakers with one another.
On this high school field trip, however, our focus was on seeing a French movie (In French, naturally), and participating in a French cooking class. Now, because I was super nerdy (still am, let’s be honest), I was totally into the whole idea of a French cooking class. The class was conducted in French, the ingredients and directions were listed in French, and the food was French. I was prepared to make some classic French dish like beef bourguignon, a la Julia Child, but the instructor thought otherwise.
Looking back, the simple fruit salad the instructor chose was definitely appropriate for a group of high schoolers who regularly depended on EasyMac and Ramen for their afternoon snacks. I, of course, thought otherwise: I had been cooking with my dad and baking with my mom in the kitchen since I could walk. Fruit salad in my mind was not deserving of its own lesson. I mean, you essentially cut up fruit and put it in a bowl. How was a French fruit salad any different?
But I was wrong.
Our French cooking instructor told us that the secret to making a delicious fruit salad was not only cutting fruit in somewhat uniform pieces, but adding vanilla extract. Yes, vanilla. My mind was blown then, just as is continues to be now. The vanilla, essentially make a sweet syrup, coating all the fruit and drawing out all their natural flavors. Delicious.
Ever since that class, when I have needed to take an easy to prepare dish to a party or a gathering, I take this. Every time, someone always comes up to me and asks: “what on Earth is in this? It is the best fruit salad I have ever had.”
Ahhh, see. The French. Their cooking. They just know.
Some cook’s notes:
- Your fruit can be cut in advance in stored in individual airtight containers to save on prep time the day of serving, however, many types of fruit will start to brown. Adding the lemon juice will delay the oxidation process and thus delay browning, but it will still happen with time.
- I have made this fruit salad with many different types of fruit, depending on what is in season. Feel free to swap in an out what you find at the grocery store and what you have on hand- it will always end up fantastic!
- Softer fruits like peaches, bananas, and kiwis will become very soft at a much faster rate. Be mindful of this while you choose your fruit to use.
- Be careful on how much vanilla extracts you add: too much can cause an overwhelming, somewhat bitter vanilla flavor. If you want a stronger vanilla flavor, add a tiny amount at a time, tasting along the way.
- Make sure your slices of fruit are small enough to spear with a fork; trying to shove half an apple in your mouth with a fork is embarrassing at any party. (But alone is a-ok!)
- Please make note of the serving size. If you are making this just for yourself, or even 2 people, halve or quarter the recipe.
Perfect Summer Fruit Salad
Serves 6-8, as a side
- 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. high quality vanilla extract
- 3 Apples
- 16 oz. Strawberries
- 4 oz. Blackberries
- 2 Bananas
- 1 Grapefruit
- 2 Valencia Oranges
- 2 Small Blood Oranges
- 3 peaches
- 4 Kiwis
- Cut all fruit into somewhat-uniform pieces.
- Place into a large bowl.
- Add vanilla, and thoroughly mix. Add more, to taste, but see note above.
- Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.