Chef Adriana Urbina of De Maria has some fresh ideas for produce
Being tasked with bringing a fruit salad or vegetable plate to brunch may seem like you’re making a throwaway dish, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you just slice up whatever’s already in the fridge or buy dry, pre-cut produce at the grocery story, you’re not really doing yourself any favors. Fruit and vegetables don’t have to lay naked on a plate to earn their place at brunch.
“I definitely think it is important to keep all different textures in mind when building out a fruit or vegetable plate, like crunchy, soft, and chewy.” Adriana Urbina, Chef of De Maria in Manhattan, told me in an email. “Adding simple touches such as infused waters, acid, fresh herbs, and garnishes with texture such as nuts and crunchy quinoa help do the trick as they provide a perfect complement, creating a well-balanced and refreshing fruit or vegetable plate.”
While she thinks most types nuts and cheese work well with both fruit and vegetables, there’s one element you should never omit: “Adding some form of acidity is a non-negotiable, whether it be lemons, limes, oranges, yuzu, etc.”
Urbina demonstrated her advice with a couple examples that were simple enough to prepare in a morning just before brunch, but stunning in both flavor and look. For fruit, under a few spoonfuls of cucumber agua fresca (a strained mixture of blended cucumbers, water, lime juice, and sugar), she suggested pairing sliced mango and blackberries with a few leaves of fresh Thai basil and a dusting of toasted red quinoa. When it comes to vegetables, Urbina likes to shave raw seasonal produce—here she recommended candy cane beets, carrots, daikon radish, asparagus, and some fresh herbs, edible flowers, and sprouted microgreens. Though flavorful enough to be munched on their own, Urbina recommends tossing a vegetable plate like this with a bright vinaigrette.
Above all, Urbina notes the important of using the freshest ingredients possible. “When you use high quality fruits and vegetables, it really allows them to shine on their own.”