Oh, I LOVED this.  Make this!  I served it to a few friends on Saturday and it was a huge success.  Very special – especially for a fruit salad (although I do love fruit).  The marinating syrup is delightfully refreshing – with fresh vanilla, ginger and citrus flavors.  It also presents beautifully.  This calls for some fruits you may have to search for – but are well worth it – but of course you can skip or substitute for what you cannot find.  Make this the day before you plan to serve as it needs to chill overnight.  Ali (my neighbor) was looking forward to a taste…but unfortunately (for her) I gobbled it ALL up finishing it Sunday midday!  Mmmm…

(I’m placing this in the medium effort category only because of the time it takes to cut the fruit.  The actual recipe is very easy.  Please taste your purchased fruit before you use it.  Your fruit salad is only as good as your fruits so try to start with the very best.  Seeding vanilla beans and pomegranates are at bottom of the post.)

jeweled winter fruit salad (slightly adapted from the December 2009 issue of the Food Network Magazine):

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (see bottom of post if you are unfamiliar with vanilla beans)
1 lemon
7 – 8 blood, cara cara or naval oranges (I used 5 blood, 2 cara cara, and one naval – if all large oranges use seven, if small oranges use eight – the blood and cara cara are red hued and look beautiful – taste good too!)
2 mangos, peeled and diced
5 kiwis, peeled and diced into large chunks
8 kumquats sliced very thin – seeds removed
1 – 1 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (About 1-2 pomegranates. See bottom of post if you are unfamiliar with removing pomegranate seeds.  Try to use them because they add crunch, flavor and beautiful color.  They need to be ripe and good so ask for help in your grocery if you are unfamiliar.)
1/2 cup red currants (or more to taste I love these sour bites) if you can find them
2 firm bananas

Combine the sugar, sliced ginger, vanilla seeds and vanilla pod in a saucepan.  With a wide veggie peeler, remove wide strips of lemon and orange zest (from one of the oranges) and add to the saucepan.  Later you will have to pull these items out – so if you want to wrap up in cheesecloth feel free.  I just fished around the fruit.

Bring all to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once boiling, reduce and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Refrigerate until cold.  (To speed up the process place in an ice water bath in the fridge.)

Peel remaining oranges by cutting off the tops and bottom and then using your knife to peel following the natural curve of the orange so that the segment is revealed.  Over a medium bowl, use your knife to cut along both sides of each membrane to free the segments, letting them fall into the bowl.  Squeeze all remaining juice from the orange.  Repeat with all remaining oranges.

Add the cut mangoes, kiwis, kumquats, pomegranate seeds and red currants and gently toss.  Pour the chilled syrup over the fruit.  Then add the bananas and again, very gently toss.

Let chill overnight.  Before serving, remove the citrus zest, ginger and vanilla pod.  Serve in small bowls and enjoy-

vanilla bean– To seed the vanilla bean, place the long bean on a cutting board.  With your paring knife, slice the bean lengthwise – from top to bottom all the way down and through.  Open it up and you will see soft brown inside.  With the back of your knife, scrape the seed gently (while holding the end of the pod) collecting all the goodness from inside.  These are the seeds and they should be on your knife.  The pod contains more flavor and seeds and is often added to marinating liquids or ice creams – and pulled out later.  You can purchase at the grocery or get a bunch from penzeys.com – store  them in an airtight container or they dry out.

pomegranate– To remove seeds from pomegranate, place it on a cutting board and cut into quarters.  Over two bowls, one for white pith/skin and one for seeds, gently break apart each quarterbending it slightly.  More and more pomegranate seeds will be revealed.  You might get splashed a little bit if you pop a seed which is likely and normal.  (Do not wear your favorite white t-shirt.  Or any favorite shirt.  A dark pj top should do the trick.  Or naked is good!)  Peel away the thin membrane and gently pull the seeds from the shell.  You eat the whole little red thing.  Seed included.  Delicious.

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