I’m not a particularly exciting person. I like to be in bed around 9:30 most nights, cuddled up with a book. If the clock strikes 11 pm and I’m still up on a work night, it’s not a happy day. Which means I’m not a big fan of weeknight dinner parties. People inevitably want to stay too late, chatting, having a good time, and all I can think is, “It’s past my bedtime people, time to go home.” But I recently discovered the exception to this rule: friends with kids can come over any night of the week. Friends with kids need to get home for bedtime, which means dinner wraps up with enough time for me to clean up and still be in bed before 10 pm. It’s been a nice change to have some mid-week dinner guests, and a good chance to stretch my cooking muscles.
If I’m inviting friends over for dinner there has to be dessert. It’s just non-negotiable. But I did get thrown for a loop when I invited friends over for dinner and learned that one of them isn’t eating sugar. I can handle gluten-free dessert (pudding) and vegan dessert (crisp with coconut oil instead of butter) without much difficulty, but sugar-free dessert is a challenge. I wasn’t about to offer something chemically sugar-free because a) they usually aren’t delicious and b) if you’re avoiding sugar for health reasons, you probably don’t want that. And while I could have gone the fruit-and-cheese-plate route (and come to think of it, why didn’t I?? It would have been so easy), I came up with fruit salad instead. And while I expected it would be good enough for sugar-free dessert, it was good enough to serve for non-sugar-free guests – a win for both sugar-free, and fruit salad in general.
Here’s the thing about fruit salad: it’s usually bad. A sad pile of unripe cantelope and grapes, dry and overly crunchy. And it almost never has dressing, which is a shame because salad is all about dressing. I didn’t realize that until I tried this fruit salad and realized the real key was the dressing – in that case a syrup that soaked in overnight. Part of the success of this salad is the dressing – a concentrated citrus juice with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. It makes what would otherwise be a pile of fruit, feel like more of a treat. And yes, it is just fruit and so technically a healthy dessert, but that’s really beside the point. It’s just good dessert.
- 1 pineapple, cut into bite-sized wedges
- 6-7 citrus fruits (I like to use a 1:2 ratio of grapefruit to oranges/tangerines)
- 2-3 kiwis, cut into a small dice (or substitute pomegranate seeds here, or go half and half)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- CUT the citrus fruits into supremes (review the technique here) to remove the skin and pith. Squeeze the juice from the leftover fruit into a medium pot. You should end up with at least a quarter cup of juice.
- HEAT the juice in the pot over high heat until it starts to boil, the reduce the heat to medium and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Give the pan a gentle swirl every minute or so. When it's thickened and reduced by about a third (it should be a darker orange too at this point), turn off the heat, and add the vanilla extract and cinnamon.
- TOSS the pineapple, orange segments, and kiwi with the syrup and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.