When you think of Southern food, a few classic dishes like biscuits, chicken and dumplings, pimento cheese, and shrimp and grits always come to mind. A new book called Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang sets out to make those classics and several new dishes doable when time is lacking. I received a review copy of this book, and in it I found recipes for snacking, picnics, salads, parties, casseroles, and of course, Southern sweets. There are cooking tips like chopping greens into thin ribbons to speed up cooking time or cooking everything for shrimp and grits together in the oven instead of separately on top of the stove to reduce active time. And, there are some classics like fried green tomatoes and okra fritters that don’t take long to prepare anyway. Beyond the Southern classics, there are also dishes like catfish tacos, warm curried fruit, and a key lime martini. When I got to the sweets chapter, I was drawn to the ambrosia since citrus is still in season. It’s a simple salad with supremed ruby red grapefruit and navel oranges, pineapple chunks, and a layer of whipped cream.
In the book, the ambrosia is composed as a trifle, but I served it in individual portions. I also took the liberty of garnishing with pomegranate seeds because I still had a couple of homegrown, tiny pomegranates on hand. I have a dwarf pomegranate shrub which actually produced fruits, albeit very small fruits, this year, and those fruits were packed with delightful seeds. So, to begin making this dessert, fresh pineapple was cut into chunks, and navel oranges and red grapefruits were cut into segments. The fruits were placed in a sieve and allowed to drain. Be sure to save the juice that collects for another use or mix it with a little vodka for a quick cocktail. Next, white chocolate was melted and allowed to cool, and cream was whipped. There was no added sugar as the white chocolate added just enough sweetness to the cream. The whipped cream was whisked into the melted white chocolate in two steps, and then it was time to layer it with the mixed fruits.
Coconut usually makes an appearance in ambrosia, and I missed it here a little. Some freshly grated coconut pieces that had been toasted would have been a nice addition, but that would have made this a slightly more complicated and time-consuming dish. As it was, there were certainly no complaints. The layers of fruit and rich, white chocolate whipped cream made for a Southern-style dessert full of fresh flavors with just enough decadence.