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Because I grew up in the Northeast in a WASPy/Italian family, it wasn't until I started this column that I learned of the dessert salad phenomenon. My first foray into dessert salad-dom was Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which is basically a pretzel-crusted, strawberry Jell-O cheesecake. A southern friend told me these sweets are called salads so that you can sneak two desserts.
According to my Mormon friends, Utah is a dessert salad hotspot where retro Jell-O salad creations still make appearances at potlucks. Frog's Eye Salad, a pudding/pasta/fruit salad, is a perennial favorite—so naturally I had to give it a try.
Yes, the name itself is a bit off-putting. (Mmmmm, yum, frog's eyes.) And yet, for a pudding chock full o' acini di pepe (tiny ball-shaped pasta pieces), it's kind of appropriate.
Ingredients-wise the salad isn't too far off from ambrosia, a fruit salad mixture in which oranges and other sliced fruits are suspended in whipped topping or pudding. Marshmallow and shredded coconut are often added for texture to both ambrosia and frog's eye salad.
While I was initially skeptical of the addition of pasta, that little bit of chewiness it gives the salad isn't that different from tapioca balls. If your sweet tooth wasn't cut on cotton candy, marshmallows, and other sugary fare, this might not be for you. It's arguably the most polarizing dessert I've ever made: one person's sweet treat is another's "most revolting dish ever."
Got a favorite classic American dessert recipe you'd like to see featured here? Email us with the subject: "American Classics."