The fruit salad has been a staple of buffets, lunch plates and desserts for a very long time.  Back in the olden days when I was a kid, these salads were commonly laden with hefty amounts of whipped cream, pineapple and were often made into molds with flavored gelatin.  This was probably due to the fact that the fruits used were out of season, canned, or generally sour and not the best quality.  And, often these salads were staples of potlucks, church meetings and family events, and the longer the fruit looked good, the better! Now, getting high quality fruit year round is easy and common, and with better technology for canning and freezing used by the big food processors, the quality is significantly better than the good old days.

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Getting the best fruit seasonally is still the best option, especially when it comes to berries.  The shorter the trip to the produce department, the better the berry.  Because I am blessed to live in central Texas, the trip from the fields in Mexico and south Texas is just a few hours.  As I was perusing the old cookbooks, and perusing my memory, it became clear that the classic fruit salad with whipped cream and marshmallows was in need of a makeover.  Then, while I was taking photos at the farmers market, the balsamic vinegar from the Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Company drew me in.   The one that spoke to my vision was the Mandarin Balsamic Vinegar.  It’s an amazing balance of sweet, tart acidic and mandarin orange to act as the binding flavor for the salad I wanted to create. And the final result is better than I could have anticipated.  Get fresh blueberries and strawberries, good apples and grapes all easy to get year round and I think it’s okay to use canned mandarin oranges, as long as they aren’t in syrup.  As for the dressing, the balsamic vinegar is perfect on it’s own and doesn’t need any additions.  If you like, sprinkle on some flaked salt to enhance the sweetness of the fruit.

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Fresh Fruit Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

6 large spinach leaves

1 lemon juiced

5 ripe strawberries sliced

½ Honeycrisp or Gala Apple sliced

10 red seedless grapes, halved

½ cup fresh blueberries

½ cup mandarin oranges, canned is fine

2 tablespoons Terra Verde mandarin balsamic vinegar

Juice the lemon into a small bowl.  Cut up the apples and dip each piece in the lemon juice.  This will prevent the apples from browning. Wash and dry the spinach leaves and arrange in a circle around the edge of the plate.  Slice the strawberries and arrange between the spinach leaves.  In the center, pile on the apples.  Add the blueberries and grapes, then the orange wedges.  Drizzle the balsamic vinegar on the fruit and spinach, and enjoy.  Garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired and enjoy.  Add toasted pistachios or almonds for extra crunch and shaved Parmesan for an even more savory plate.