People typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to fruit salad: You either love it or think it's completely gross. I'm borderline obsessed with it and will gladly eat the mealiest melon and most sour strawberries. Up until recently, I rarely served it for parties, even though it's such a great healthy option (especially when you don't feel like baking). Because a big bowl of mushy fruit just isn't that visually appealing, we decided to take it to the next level with the same level of attention as we would a cheese plate.
This fruit salad isn't going to necessarily save you a ton of time or money, but with a few simple touches, you can transform a regular fruit salad into something beautiful. When selecting the fruit, use whatever looks ripe at the farmers' market or store—and take into consideration what you have the time and patience for. You can make it as advanced (hi, star-cut watermelon and cantaloupe bowl) or as simple as you like (with berries and grapes that don't require anything besides a quick rinse). Here are my tips for building a stunning fruit salad:
Include a variety of shapes: Whenever possible, serve the fruit in different ways—use a melon baller on one piece of fruit, mandoline thin slices of another, use cookie cutters, hull the strawberries into hearts, and serve another piece simply halved or cut into rounds. Just keep in mind that people are going to be eating from it, so you want to make the fruit accessible—if you create a fun shape out of a kiwi, also offer slices next to it that people can eat directly off the platter. It should go without saying, that using a cookie cutter results in some leftover fruit pieces, but I ate as I went along (a definite perk) and saved the rest of the "discards" for Sloan's lunchbox, for her to eat throughout the week.
Fill up every nook and cranny: Similar to building a cheese plate, you want the serving platter to look abundant and beautiful. Place the larger fruit on the platter first, then fill in the cracks with smaller items.
Create an ombre- or rainbow-inspired effect: Start in one corner with either the darkest or lightest fruit, and build from there. To create a ROYGBIV effect, I began with the dragon fruit, then surrounded it with light pink elements, transitioning the board into other colors, loosely following a rainbow arrangement. It's not going to be perfect because you aren't working with paint samples, but it creates a pretty, intentional look.
Add a variety of different heights: Consider using the larger fruits (like melons) as a vessel to hold the cut fruit. Creating layers and dimension makes the board more dynamic and interesting.
Get creative with fruits/garnishes: While most fruit bowls follow an expected pattern (raspberries, banana, and melon), use this opportunity to select fruits you wouldn't normally buy. In shopping for this fruit platter, I picked out fruits I love but rarely think to eat, like dragon fruit. I didn't end up using mint, but it also works nicely for adding a shot of color and fragrance to a board.
Don't be afraid to move things around: It's difficult to imagine what the final product will look like until you start placing things onto the board, so don't be afraid to move things around as you go. At first, I thought all the berries should be lumped together, but later realized that it would create a far more striking effect to separate them by color.