To appreciate the old-fashioned appeal of this fruit salad, recall that fresh citrus used to be a rare treat in North Carolina, available only once a year, when people would fetch crates of fruit from warmer climes during the winter. Remember how your grandparents reminisced about finding an orange in the toe of their stockings? It must have felt like pulling out a handful of sweet-smelling sunshine. So imagine the opulence of having a whole bowl of these bright, sweet fruits. (Plus pineapple and coconut all the way from the tropics!)
Yield: 8 servings.
1 cup shredded fresh coconut or sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 grapefruits, preferably one pink and one yellow
4 sweet oranges
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cubed
Sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Place the coconut and pecans on separate rimmed baking sheets and toast, shaking the pans once or twice, until they are lightly colored, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer each to separate plates to cool.
Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut just enough of the tops and bottoms off the grapefruits to expose the flesh. Set the grapefruits facedown on a cutting board and slice off the peel and pith, following the curve of the fruit with the knife. Working over a bowl to collect the juice, cut between the pith to release segments into the bowl, discarding any seeds. Repeat with the oranges.
Add the pineapple. Add the coconut and pecans, reserving about 2 tablespoons of each. Gently toss to combine. Taste the ambrosia and sweeten to taste with sugar. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Just before serving, sprinkle the reserved coconut and pecans over fruit.