Refreshing Food of the Gods

January 16 00:00 2002 Print This Article

After weeks of holiday desserts, a simple dish of oranges suddenly seems like heaven - or at least the food of heaven. Ambrosia is an old-fashioned Southern fruit dessert or salad. The name is from Greek and Roman mythology and means "food of the gods." But this dish with the celestial name is really a down-to-earth dessert starring oranges and a little coconut.

In the South, the dish is often put on holiday tables as a refreshing alternative to heavier fare. In the post-holiday season, ambrosia can be a light dessert or a side dish for a hearty winter meal. Food writer Nathalie Dupree writes, "We Southerners always add it to Thanksgiving and Christmas menus to allow us to have the illusion that we're not in too much trouble with our diets, because after all, 'We only had ambrosia for dessert!'"

The key to a successful ambrosia is good oranges. The better the oranges, the better the ambrosia. Sweet, seedless navel oranges are the best choice. When choosing oranges, pick fruit that is firm and heavy, with no mold or spongy areas. They don't have to be bright orange - that could be from food coloring. Oranges can be stored at a cool room temperature for a day or two, but afterwards, they should be refrigerated, for up to two weeks. Navel oranges are big and have tight skins, so peeling them can take some elbow grease. After peeling the oranges, try to remove as much of the white pith as you can with a paring knife.

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain some vitamin A. The vitamin C begins to dissipate after the oranges are cut or squeezed. After only 8 hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the refrigerator, 20 percent of the vitamin C is lost.

Using fresh oranges in ambrosia is a good step toward the higher recommended levels of vitamin C. The new Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 75 milligrams (mg) for women and 90 mg for men. Reaching and exceeding these levels are no problem if you include one or two servings of fruits high in vitamin C - oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, kiwi, or strawberries. And any of these fruits can be added to the traditional basic ambrosia recipe for a touch of color as well as taste - not to mention healthful benefits. Then, a little orange juice is all the dressing necessary to complement the natural sweetness of the fruit. And you have a dish fit for the gods.


Makes 8 servings.

  • 6 navel oranges
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chunk-style pineapple (packed in juice), drained
  • 1 large banana, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup very finely-slivered dried nectarines
  • 1/3 cup packaged unsweetened coconut
  1. Peel 5 oranges, removing all the white pith. Slice peeled oranges into thin rounds, then into quarters. Place in medium bowl. Squeeze juice from remaining orange into bowl. Add pineapple, banana and nectarine. Toss gently to evenly distribute orange juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Distribute fruit among 8 dishes. Sprinkle coconut on top.

Per serving:
148 calories
2 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat)
33 g. carbohydrate
2 g. protein
5 g. dietary fiber
8 mg. sodium

Source: AICR

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