Challenger School

Fruit Salad Turned into Art


“It’s not what you serve, it’s the way that you serve it,” describes this fruit plate presented as a still life.

Creating it was pure serendipity – an unexpected and happy event that happens by chance. I happened to be eating a scoop of cottage cheese plopped on top of chopped fruit. The unexpected bit was that while eating it, I was leafing through a book of photographs by Irving Penn, the photographer most famous for doing Chanel’s magazine commercials, when I came across food still lifes he had shot in the 1950s. They started me thinking about how to take berries, melon, grapes and cottage cheese and turn these familiar foods, and a well-balanced combination including protein and calcium, into a surprisingly beautiful meal. Thinking also that cottage cheese resembled panna cotta, the dessert often served sitting in a pool of sauce, my vision became a clear design.

Setting fresh berries, grapes, cantaloupe and an orange on my counter, I knew the one thing missing was a background to show them off. If this is breakfast, it should be orange juice, I thought. So this recipe explains how to turn the juice into a sauce. Also the recipe instructs how to place the cottage cheese on top of an orange slice. The rest of the recipe is a diagram presented in words.

Fruits get their beautiful colors from phytochemicals, unique substances that provide important health benefits as well. So this fruit plate is both eye pleasing and a health promoting phyto-feast.

Morning Fruit Plate

1 cup fresh squeezed tangerine or orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 tsp. agave syrup
1 large navel orange, preferably organic for zest
2 cups reduced-fat cottage cheese
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 (1/2-inch) thick cantaloupe slices, rind removed
8 strawberries, hulled and halved vertically
24 seedless red grapes, halved
8 fresh mint leaves, for garnish

In measuring cup, combine juice, vanilla and agave. Pour 1/4 cup juice into four 8-inch, deep salad plates.

Cut 4 slices from thickest part of orange, reserving ends. Cut away rind and pith from each slice. Place one slice in center of each plate. Spoon 1/2 cup cottage cheese into dry measuring cup with a handle. Holding it over orange slice, carefully tip cup over so most of cottage cheese lands on orange slice. Repeat for remaining plates. Grate some orange zest from orange ends over cottage cheese.

Arrange 1/4 cup blueberries in a close ring around cottage cheese on each plate. Place melon slice facing cottage cheese. Arrange strawberries and grapes to complete circle of fruit around cottage cheese and blueberries. Set 2 mint leaves on top of cottage cheese and serve.


I suggest an organic orange because of using its zest. Compare sodium content of cottage cheese brands and select one with a lower amount.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 230 calories, 2 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 40 g carbohydrate, 16 g protein,
4 g dietary fiber, 478 mg sodium


About author

Dana Jacobi

Dana Jacobi

Chef, The American Institute for Cancer Research

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