by Julia Erikson
Dance is an exacting science. Technique requires great discipline and continual vigilance to maintain. But we all know the recipe for success also requires a departure from the rigors of exactitude into a freer, more creative personal place. One has to feel the music and express their individuality to truly gain any modicum of success as a dancer—in essence you must study hard, then throw away the notes and go it on your own. This is when the beauty and glory of dance emerge, when it really is a vehicle for self-expression.
Recipes and food parallel the duality of dance in certain ways. The best balanced recipes in culinary history stand the test of time much like a finely choreographed ballet. While we needn’t stray too far from a proven concept, with something like a fruit salad, why not bend the rules a bit and find the balance of flavors that works for you? I say let the personality of the fruit, along with your personal taste, play the starring roles. Use the freedom presented to listen to your palate and hone your confidence in the kitchen; there is no right or wrong ratio of flavors out there.
In this vain I present to you several fruit salad templates meant to guide you, and your taste buds, toward your own personal sweet spot—flavor-wise. Yes, I recognize we are only talking about fruit salad here, but it is the perfect jumping off point for cultivating your creativity in the kitchen, something that is good for your soul and for your self-expression as an artist. And who knows, you may just get carried away and create something you want to share with the world! 😉
Also, one more thought: Historically I’ve avoided the ubiquitous fruit salad on a party buffet table, mainly because it often seems to resemble some combination of soggy, boring, or overrun with not my fave fruit. So I’ve chosen to share a few of my favorite fruit-centric salad combinations, though most of them actually happen to include a savory component. I love this, as I think contrast actually highlights the sweetness of summer’s bounty. But you take the lead and feel free to omit/substitute/improvise!
For all of the recipes below, use your best judgment in terms of quantities—these are only flavor combinations that I love. Trust your palate and go for it! And let me know what you come up with by commenting about the results of your improv sessions!
Berry herb salad
- Berries, any combo
- Mint and/or basil
- Optional (well, everything is optional here!) sweetener of choice—I really like the addition of agave or liquid stevia to bring out the natural sweetness of the berries, but it all depends on what state your berries are in…if it’s not the height of their season they may need a little nudge toward sweetness. 😉
- Especially with basil and strawberries, you can drizzle balsamic vinegar over the berries and let sit to macerate for 15 minutes)
Cucumber Melon Refresco
- Hothouse cucumbers simply chopped or the normal guys with skin and seeds removed
- Melon of choice (I like cantaloupe but am often overruled!)
- Sweetener of choice
- Simple, refreshing, and cooling!
Watermelon Olive Feta
- Cut up chunks of watermelon
- Basil or mint
- Kalamata olives, cut into smaller pieces if desired
- Crumbled feta
Blueberry Corn Salsa/relish/salad
- Corn—fresh is best, cut right off the cob raw! If unavailable, thaw frozen corn by running under cold water in a strainer (one great option is Trader Joe’s frozen Roasted Corn…it’s so good).
- Minced red onion
- Sea salt and pepper
- Can add some red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little sweetener, a little spice like cayenne pepper, or nothing at all!
- Optional add in: garbanzo beans
- Can be served atop anything tex-mex (think fish or tofu tacos), as a chunky dipping salsa, or in a big pile over a bed of greens
Bonus mushed-up fruit salad recipe…more of a “Melting Pot” than a “Tossed Salad”:
Banana Soft Serve!
- Freeze overripe bananas in medium chunks (break each banana into 2 or 3 chunks)
- Pop frozen chunks into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy
- Add in anything your heart desires!
- Frozen berries
- Almond milk to make a shake
- Nut butter
- Cocoa powder
- All of the above!
Contributor Julia Erickson, originally from Seattle, is a Principal Dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Julia received her training on a scholarship with Pacific Northwest Ballet School and San Francisco Ballet School. She toured to Europe and Asia with PNB and danced with the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet for two seasons, prior to joining PBT in 2001. Some of Julia’s roles include Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, The Sylph in La Sylphide, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Lady Capulet in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, and the leads in Balanchine’s Agon, Prodigal Son, Who Cares? and Serenade.
- Julia’s love for cooking began at an early age. She relishes her time experimenting in the kitchen, and she’s thrilled to be able to combine her two major passions, ballet and food, in creating Barre. In her free time she enjoys practicing yoga, Gyrotonic and Pilates, reading the New Yorker, farmers markets, and going on bike rides with Aaron.