A lot of the fruit salads this time of year are sweet. Juicy, ripe fragrant fruit with a sweet dressing - summer bliss bite after bite. These compositions live in the dessert category of my brain. That said, there are often times I feel compelled to snap fruit salads out of dessert-land and lead them over to the savory side of the spectrum. One of the more popular examples of this is watermelon, feta, and mint. You probably know the combination well. Sweetness from the melon, salty from the feta, tingly herbaceous from the mint. That's one example, but there are other realms to explore, and many ways to play off the soft sweetness of summer fruit. I thought we might work through some other ideas. Summer fruits are often tender, so bringing crunch and texture to a preparation can be good. Or, the introduction of a medley of green notes with herbs, sprouts, or salad greens. Also, I think we can agree, few things aren't improved by introducing deeply caramelized shallots - this works particularly well in this realm. To inspire, here's an example of what I'm talking about using pluots as the lead fruit. The fruit is set off with toasted ginger, garlic, and shallots. It is drizzled with a simple lime soy sauce dressing, and is generously flecked with herbs - in this case, mint, basil, and cilantro. Also, lots of toasted peanuts.
A couple of notes. I do make an effort to source (what I consider to be) good ginger. I can often find organic Hawaiian ginger, and tend to stock up on that. I don't buy ginger from China, and much of the ginger you encounter, organic or not, is sourced there (at least the ginger you encounter on the west coast of CA).
I deploy a soy sauce/shoyu dressing here, and love it, but I like good soy sauce. That said, if you tend to like the fruit flavor to come through more directly, you can use salt in it's place. Just add the honey to the lime juice, as called for, then whisk in sea salt, until the dressing tastes balanced and delicious to you.
Pluot Summer Salad
This is the sort of preparation that can be easily simplified if needed. You can certainly use a single fruit instead of the blend of pluots, cherries, and dried figs called for. And a single herb, in place of the trio. Really, what you want to do is source the best fruit you can, and start there. Most of the battle with a recipe like this is won or lost at the market. I used Flavor King Pluots here, but go for what tastes best. Start with room temperature fruit. It will allow for the greatest expression of flavor.
2 tablespoons clarified butter or extra-virgin coconut oil
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
a 1/2-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce / shoyu
2 teaspoons runny honey
5 ripe pluots, pitted and torn
1 cup pitted cherries, torn in half
4 dried figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted peanuts, chopped
a small handful of each, chopped - fresh basil, mint, and cilantro
Heat the butter or oil in a large skillet, and cook the shallots, stirring regularly, until they take on a good amount of color. Stir in the garlic cloves, allow to cook another minute or two, and then stir in the ginger for the final minute. Set aside.
Whisk together the lime juice, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl, until the honey dissolves completely. Taste and adjust if needed.
Arrange the pluots, cherries, and figs in a serving bowl. Drizzle with half of the soy dressing, and toss very gently. Add the shallot mixture, most of the peanuts, and most of the herbs. Toss gently to distribute everything evenly. Taste, decide if you want to add more dressing, and serving sprinkled with the remaining peanuts and herbs.
Prep time: 15 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes