Fruit Platters, a Short Tutorial

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Carving at a wedding buffet


Lets build a fresh fruit platter.  First decide what shape you want to use as a platter or base for your creation.  I like to use a large rectangle  for my creations.  Ovals and round platters are okay but they tend to abbreviate the amount of different rows of colors you can achieve.  Using a thin slicing knife,  core and clean all of the different fruits. 

Start by cutting off both ends of the melon or pineapple, now you have a flat base to work with, next take your knife and make your first cut down the side just deep enough to expose the ripe flesh below the surface; do this in one long stroke.  Now you are able to see where the skin ends and the ripeness begins.  Peel the melon in successive single strokes, moving the melon clockwise as you go. This is easy to do with melons, with a cantaloupe you will see a distinct change from green to orange; simply keep your blade just inside the orange.   As you start each cut be sure that you have the heel of your blade just inside the ripe area and keep it there as you follow the contour around and down.  By staying in the ripe area, with a single stroke you avoid the need to go back. After you finish removing the skin, cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds.

Typically cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple form the main base.  With pineapple there are many uses for the top so if it is in good shape I will set it aside for a centerpiece or a side piece.  It can be totally trimmed to look like a spike sticking up with its whitish and green color, it can be trimmed with scissors to look like a tree which can then have raspberries stuck on the spikes, or you can take the leaves and fold them back on themselves and it will look like a giant satin ribbon in the center of your platter.


Fruit Platter


If I use a centerpiece I will build out from that with the large fruit like a series of spokes, otherwise I like going diagonally.  Start with pineapple, I core it using my fancy copper pipe, peel it then cut it in half. Lay the flat side on the board and make thin slices, about a quarter of an inch wide. Cut both halves then transfer them to the platter, A spatula or a dough knife works great for this maneuver. I flip the slices over when  I move them so that the inside is facing upward. 

With pineapple in the center in a diagonal line you can now add a honeydew half way up one side of the pineapple and put the second half on the other side of the pineapple. Next add the cantaloupe on the opposite side of the pineapple across from it''s green counter part.  Turn the cantaloupe and the honeydew so that the inside is exposed like a bowl or cup and fan it out so that now there is a yellow band down the diagonal with alternate orange and green on both sides.

I you can find it, a ripe Mexican papaya is an excellent addition for the next row on both sides, again facing interior side up.  By now the platter should be full with your first layer of fruit.  The colors are yellow, green-orange, green-orange and finally the reddish pink of ripe papayas you flush out to the opposite corners. 

(A word about the Mexican papaya: most stores in my area carry them but they put them on the shelf totally green and hard as a rock…don't use it! Takes it home and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for a couple of weeks.  Turn it over every couple of days and wait for the skin to get soft.  It will actually start to grow a nice crop of mold but that is excellent because it indicates ripeness is approaching. When it is soft and yet still firm it is ready to cut. Trim the ends, stand it up and take off a thin layer of skin the mold stays on the outside and the fruit is ripe, full-flavored and beautifully colored.  Now you can cut it open and scoop out the small black seeds.)

As you fan the fruit out, you can make wavy lines with it, like a sort of subtle ess-curve.  You can also face the pineapple half one way and half the other then push the other fruit closer to it to make it stand almost on edge.  Thin slices work much better as you can manipulate them more easily…stay at a quarter of an inch.  The reason for placing the fruit on the platter interior side up is simple; you now have the platter covered with several sets of cups into which you can now pour different colors of berries.

If you still have some room in the corners opposite of the pineapple; this is a good place to put kiwi fruit.  Peel the kiwi the same way as you would a melon, top and bottom ends off and then down the sides.  You can either make wedges or wheels, both ways do a good job of exposing that great translucent green interior.   Now it is time to paint your base platter with color.  How you do it is totally up to you; I like to do contrasts. So the honeydew will get blue-berries or black-berries and in the cantaloupe I will use the reds of strawberry and raspberry.  I like to cut strawberries at least in half to expose the color inside (and also to be sure that I don't serve a worm…got the tee shirt). 

For that extra special touch you can also "fan" a few strawberries to put around in any place that needs some extra color. Lastly finish your creation with some clusters of seedless grapes randomly spread around.  I love it when the "champagne" or "lunchbox" grapes come out but that is usually only for about a month or less. Another great fruit for the top is Carambola or Star fruit, try to find a ripe one as they tend to be bitter. I am not a big fan of oranges on a tray and I avoid apples and peaches as they oxidize too quickly.

Want to combine your efforts?  Serve fruit and cheese in one setting? Try this.  This watermelon half is stuck with skewers of fruit and cheese.  Cheddar, Swiss and Dill Havarti interspersed with Cantaloupe, Honeydew and finished with a strawberry on the top.  Your guests will rave about this center piece!


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