Mom’s Arabic Fruit Salad

I can hardly remember a family gathering – a birthday, holiday or just a catch up – that didn’t end with, among other desserts, a bowl of my mom’s fruit salad. Crisp fruit laced with orange blossom water and accented with the gentle crunch of pine nuts and pistachios.

The combination of fresh fruit and floral dressing is a beautiful one, so feel free to experiment with other fruit you love. The nuts are soaked overnight to soften, which creates a unique spin on how we usually eat them with savory dishes: toasted or fried until golden brown. If left overnight, the orange blossom water and natural fruit juices melt together to make the lightest, yet most luxurious sauce.
Most importantly, this fruit salad evokes an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. You see, we Arabs love our desserts. I can remember many a time where I shared a gooey kunafa at my grandfather’s, or introduced friends to proper baklawa or maamoul at a local Middle Eastern bakery. But, looking back, the only time I can remember having this sweet, simple fruit salad was at home. I’ve asked around, and though several friends had their own renditions of fruit salad, as many of us do, none closely resembled my mom’s.
In that moment I realized that I’d never asked her if she, in fact, created this recipe or if she learned it from Teta (my grandmother, her mother-in-law), who shared many recipes with her over the years. Mom and dad are busy gallivanting around Europe and the Middle East at the moment, and can’t be reached for comment this afternoon. Maybe I’ll let it remain a mystery…
As we lead into November, and my favourite holiday – you guessed it, Thanksgiving – draws nearer, I feel particularly drawn to recipes that remind me of home, of family, and of being together. So, starting with my next post, I’m excited to bring you a three week feature of my favorite Thanksgiving family recipes. I’ll also share my tips for simplifying your cooking schedule, and a few ideas for fellow Thanksgiving-loving expats like me who can’t always find seasonal American ingredients abroad.
Until then, what recipes remind you of home?
MOM’S ARABIC FRUIT SALAD
Measurements are approximate – let your intuition guide you; Makes 4 small dessert servings
Provisions:
1 large red apple
1 large ripe pear
11/4 cup red grapes
1 1/4 cup sliced cantaloupe
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 orange
1 capful (about ½ tsp) Orange Blossom Water (mazaher)
1 small palmful pine nuts, soaked overnight or blanched in hot water
1 small palmful pistachios, soaked overnight or blanched in hot water
Method:
Combine the pine nuts and pistachios in a small bowl, cover with water, and let stand overnight to soften. Alternatively, pour boiling water over the nuts and let stand 15 minutes.
Core and slice the apple and pear into bite-size pieces (skin-on) and place in a large bowl. Toss with enough lemon juice to coat and keep from turning brown. Peel and slice the cantaloupe into bite-size pieces, then add the grapes, juice of 1 orange, and orange blossom water. Fold together with the pine nuts and pistachios. Serve immediately, or let sit 20-30 minutes until flavors combine, toss and serve.
Audio pairing: Andres Segovia, “Asturias”
Because mom + dad are in Spain today, and they used to play this Segovia CD all the time while cooking.
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07536704297054335614 Winston

    This is absolutely lovely! Love the fresh fruits and colours with the softened nuts. Where can you get Orange Blossom Water in Melbourne? I’m glad that you have this blog to share snippets of your childhood and Arabic culture with us. After all, what’s better than to celebrate Life* and sharing our culture through Food? I hope to do that with my Chinese upbringing too =) Awesome post, Yas!

  • http://gourmandeinthekitchen.com/ Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    I love the intoxicating fragrance of orange blossom water.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02265240462060082738 leaf (the indolent cook)

    This is such a lovely light combination… very pleasing to the senses. So many meals remind me of home… I need to post more of them on my blog!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11931796992646884249 Foodycat

    I usually put a splash of Cointreau on my fruit salad – the orange blossom water is a much more family-friendly option! I think the addition of nuts is gorgeous too.

  • http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.com/ Magda

    What a wonderful salad. I love the addition of orange blossom water; it brings all the flavors together!

  • http://aspoonfulofyumm.blogspot.com/ A Spoonful of Yumm

    nice memories…this fruit salad looks simple and refreshing. never had orange blossom water

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130051839810091958 Rosa’s Yummy Yums

    A delightful fruit salad!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07366703419148959445 Sue/the view from great island

    This looks gorgeous, Yasmeen. I have never used orange blossom water, I’m going to search for some. I’m posting a spiced Moroccan Orange Salad this Friday for our 50 Women Game Changer’s group, so I’m interested to try your mother’s salad. Love the photos.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11723249290792650482 MarieHarmony

    How sweet! Fruits salads are my favourite – with all these odours and colours I can understand why you like it so much and how many memories this can bring back on the table when the time of a fruit salad comes.
    I remember my grandma doing something we call “Pain-perdu” (Lost-Bread) and I can find myself in the old house at 8 years old. I know how to do it but it has never the same taste as before!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09712039473488252840 Anh

    What a great fruit salad recipe! The orange blossom is such a wonderful touch.

  • http://wayfaringchocolate.com/ Hannah

    I’ve always loved my dad’s fruit salad, but that’s always been just fruit, cut up with love :P The idea of adding floral waters and pistachios is so fantastic!

  • http://thelittleloaf.wordpress.com/ thelittleloaf

    I love the combination of floral syrup and crunchy nuts. Pistachios are one of my absolute favourites, and I love a good fruit salad, so will definitely try making this!

  • http://www.notquitenigella.com/ Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I love the addition of the orange blossom water and nuts to the fruit salad-such simple but delicious ways to change a fruit salad! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00267762026583525273 Foodness Gracious

    Looks way better than the mushy fruit salad I experienced as a kid :( We didn’t celebrate thanks giving back in Scotland but when Xmas rolls around here in the U.S, I miss my authentic mince pies and Xmas pudding served with homemade custard!

  • http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/ tasteofbeirut

    This is indeed a Near-Eastern salad that evokes home and family gatherings/ the taste of mazaher and the blanched pine nuts unmistakably Lebanese for me.

  • http://twitter.com/JacknJillTravel Jack and Jill

    Hmmm – orange blossom water. I think I can smell it just by thinking of it.