Sunday, May 18, 2014

Easy to Make an Edible Fruit Centerpiece

I was asked to do a cooking demonstration at the end of June, sponsored by the Dacotah Prairie Museum. The working title for this demonstration is "Summer Patio Brunch". I recently made the dishes I will be demonstrating in order to make sure everything tastes right and the recipe amounts are correct. Also, I photograph as I go, so I have step-by-step photos if needed. I create full color recipe pages with all the step-by-step photos so everyone will have the knowledge they need to recreate these recipes at home. The last thing I needed to accomplish was the creation of a fruit centerpiece. It could also have been a vegetable or cold cut centerpiece, but I opted for fruit.

Edible Fruit Centerpiece
Edible Fruit Centerpiece
I hadn't been grocery shopping in a couple of weeks, so yesterday I finally went and got all the fruits I thought I would need to create this edible centerpiece. My goal with demonstrating this centerpiece at the class is to show that no particular skill is needed to make it. Yes, there are plenty of lovely works of art out there, made with fruits, vegetables and cold cuts, but most people will shy away from anything too difficult, including me! If I took the time to learn all the tricks for making food art, I am sure I could do it. To date, I have not needed to do it, so I haven't taken the time to practice and become proficient. In previous cooking demonstrations I have run into too many who feel they cannot attempt a thing as they have "no talent". I hoped to prove them wrong.

Some of the ideas out there for making an edible centerpiece seem simple enough at first glance. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that they need a lot of nit-picky steps, and possibly a fair amount of artistic talent to pull off. Using a piping bag, while not difficult in the least, terrifies most people. Cutting radishes into fancy roses or making cantaloupe rind look like fancy leaves will likely have some saying they "have no talent for that sort of thing." I spent a lot of time poring through books and online to see what might be accomplished that would look lovely, yet be simple enough for anyone. I hope I have accomplished my goal. Time will tell.

Probably the most difficult part of this little project is the prepping of the pineapple. The reason I went with this design is because I loved how the top rosette of leaves on the pineapple stay in place and give height and a little bit of splendor to this simple design. This requires first cutting partway into the pineapple all around its center circumference. Then, standing the pineapple upright, getting the knife up under the sharp leaves is the next task. The knife has to start as close to the core as can be accomplished, then slicing straight downwards until reaching the circumference cut. One chunk of the pineapple should fall away easily. This is repeated on the opposite side, removing a second chunk of the pineapple. Then again on the two narrower sides left, to bare the center of the pineapple and leave a nice platform all the way around. 

The chunks of pineapple that were removed will now be peeled and cut into smaller cubes and used on the wooden skewers along with melon balls, strawberries, green and red grapes and blueberries. It is helpful to have all the fruits prepared and set out in separate bowls so making the skewers can be an easy assembly. It took about 45 skewers to completely fill in the centerpiece, so depending on how many skewers you think each person will eat will determine how many this will feed. If you do not want the work with the pineapple, you could easily trim a head of iceberg lettuce to fit, rounded side up in a bowl, cover this with some kale and stick skewers of fruit, veggies or deli meats and cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes and what have you.

Closeup of base
Closeup of base

Edible Fruit Centerpiece

This took me one hour to make

40 to 50 (8-inch) wooden skewers
20 to 25 double ended toothpicks
1 pineapple
1/2 cantaloupe, cut in cubes or balls with a melon baller
1 small bunch red grapes, off the stems
1 small bunch green grapes, off the stems
1 box blueberries
1 pound strawberries, cut in 40 to 50 chunks
3 navel oranges
1 small bunch kale, optional

Steps 1 to 5: prepping the pineapple and assembling the fruit
Prepare the pineapple: Cut a thin slice from the bottom of the pineapple so it will stand flat and stable (Step 1 in the photo above). Make a cut partway into and all the way around the circumference of the pineapple, about midway (Step2  above). Stand the pineapple upright and place the knife under the leaves and as close to the core as you can get. Slice downwards until you reach the center cut made previously. At this point the first chunk of pineapple should be freed. Set aside. Repeat this step on the opposite side of the pineapple, and then with the remaining two narrower sides. You should have left what looks like Step 3 in the photo sequence above. 

If desired, the bare pineapple can be covered with kale leaves, held in place with a few toothpicks (Step 4 above). This step is not essential. Peel the chunks of pineapple that have been removed and cut them into about 3/4-inch cubes. Cut the oranges in half, lengthwise, and then cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges, lengthwise. Assemble all the fruits and have them in separate containers set out for easy reach (Step 5 above).

Steps 1 to 4: fruit placement on pineapple
Set toothpicks all around the perimeter of the pineapple's "platform", slanting out and slightly up wards, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart, depending on the width of the orange wedges. Set the orange wedges onto the toothpicks  as shown in steps 1 and 2 in the photos directly above. 

Make the fruit skewers. I chose a rainbow effect with all the skewers alike: strawberry, melon, pineapple, green grape, blueberry, red grape (Photo 3 above). I made a few skewers with all blueberries, just for a little contrast. Begin inserting the fruit skewers first at a slant outwards just above and between the orange wedges. Then fill in the rest of the space as needed. Set the centerpiece on a nice plate or tray. 

DO AHEAD: Prep the pineapple and make all the fruit skewers the day before. Assemble closer to the time of serving.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.