Balance Is Key When Using Fruit For Sophisticated Starters

Whether you're hosting a holiday party or creating a brunch menu in the summertime, nothing starts a meal off on the right foot than a batch of sophisticated starters. And by "sophisticated," we mean starters that have an aura of elegance and maybe even some fine-dining components to them. This can be something as simple as strawberry bruschetta, or perhaps something more unique and complex like lentil pâté (per Martha Stewart).

Some starters also include an assortment of colorful fruits, which go well beyond a classic fruit salad. Soups, hors d'oeuvres, salsas, and cheese boards are common ways of highlighting such sweet and tart flavor profiles. Fruit can be incorporated as is or cooked via moist or dry-heat methods, which, according to PennState Extension, enhance the fruit's overall textures and flavors. McClain Cellars adds that some fruits also act as palate cleansers prior to tasting wine. Examples include pears, apples, bananas, and pineapples, though water flavored with sliced lemons or cucumbers also works.

Granted, if you're going down this fruity route, it's important to balance the sweetness of fruits with other elements. Here's why.

Appetizers are not desserts

This might sound obvious, but it's worth repeating: without the concept of balance, your fruity appetizers may end up too sweet. In other words, if all you can taste is fruit in, say, summer rolls or a strawberry champagne soup, then you might as well just label that as a dessert rather than a prelude for the courses to come. Even a fruit salad should be balanced out with different textures and flavor profiles. For example, a salad should have bites of crunch, paired with good chew, and notes of richness throughout.

Kristen Hartke of The Washington Post adds to this by explaining that your choice of fruits also matters. If you'll be using ultra-sweet fruits like peaches, pineapples, or fresh figs, it's a good idea to balance them out with herbs, some kind of acidity, or fruits that are more tart (such as Granny Smith apples, citrus, cranberries, or kiwis).

So what are some good pairing ideas for fruits? Well, The Baker's Almanac offers a comprehensive list of nuts, spirits, herbs, spices, and syrups that make fruits shine (and remember, fruits pair well with each other, like apples and cranberries or pears with rhubarb). Some of the pairings in the list may be obvious, but some might surprise you, like combining pineapples with cilantro or strawberries with elderflower liqueur.

So in short, it's important to balance out the fruity components with other elements. After all, these are appetizers, not desserts, so they should be treated as such.