Sallie Fannie Rowland Smith's Ambrosia Dessert

Ambrosia is a staple of many a Southern holiday table. But most recipes are complicated. Sallie Fannie Rowland Smith's Ambrosia Dessert, a recipe from the Southern Recipe Restoration Project, can be ready to enjoy in about 10 minutes. Photo by Joey Ivansco.

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Ambrosia is a staple of many a Southern holiday table. But most recipes are complicated. Sallie Fannie Rowland Smith's Ambrosia Dessert, a recipe from the Southern Recipe Restoration Project, can be ready to enjoy in about 10 minutes. Photo by Joey Ivansco.

Simplicity key ingredient in beloved ambrosia recipe

Ambrosia is a staple of many a Southern Christmas or Easter buffet table -- often embellished with marshmallows, whipped topping, nuts, maraschino cherries and various other fruits. This version, contributed to our series by a former Atlantan and tested by chef Virginia Willis, proves that simple is often best.

The contributor: Lore Tarrance, the mother of two grown sons and a daughter, and a grandmother of three, who has lived in Keller, Texas, for the past 20 years. She and her husband, who is retired from IBM, moved there from Alpharetta, where they were among the first residents of the Windward subdivision.

"We plan to put this house on the market this year to move back to Birmingham, where my parents live," she wrote. "They can use a little help now. We will build on a beautiful lot we've owned for a few years now. Family is important."

The story: "My husband's grandmother, Sallie Fannie Rowland, was married to Lucius Edward Smith. He died in 1918 during the flu epidemic, so to support herself and her children -- Noel, Marian, Mary Nell and the youngest, Dorothy Lucia (my husband's mother) -- she ran a boardinghouse in her home from 1920 to sometime in the 1940s.

"The house stood where the High Museum now stands. Dot graduated from Girls High School in Atlanta and her husband graduated from Boys High.

"I have been married to Dot's son for 45 years. During this time at holiday gatherings, while Dot was alive, she spoke of her mother and her wonderful cooking ability. Some of these recipes were passed to me at this time by actually making them. The ambrosia, simple as it is in ingredients, is definitely a refreshing favorite. It was always served as a dessert after a huge [holiday] meal, when it was peak season for citrus.

"One of the reasons I sent this recipe is because it is so delicious and satisfying as a dessert. (There was a cookbook by some guys stating this is a salad. It was not.)

"Dot would have loved to live in Atlanta, where she grew up, but her husband worked for Coca-Cola and had the Chicago territory for a while, and then was in Birmingham. (Glad he did --- met his son there!) I'm not sure she ever found Alabama as satisfying as Atlanta."

Sallie Fannie Rowland Smith's Ambrosia Dessert 

4 servings

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes, plus 1-2 hours chilling time

While many people serve ambrosia as a salad, contributor Lore Tarrance noted that the beauty of her husband's grandmother's recipe is its refreshing simplicity as a light dessert.

6 oranges, preferably Temple

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Granulated sugar, to taste

Using a sharp paring knife, remove ends of orange. Set the oranges on end and remove peel by cutting between the peel and flesh, rotating as peel is removed. Then, working over a medium bowl, slice between membranes to remove segments, allowing juice and segments to fall into bowl. Add coconut and sugar, to taste. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate to marinate for 1 to 2 hours. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 140 calories (percent of calories from fat, 19), 2 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 24 milligrams sodium.

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