Tropical Ambrosia

Active Time: 45 MINTotal Time13 HR 30 MIN
Yield: Serves : 8

Chef Ryan Ratino of Bresca in Washington, D.C., was inspired by memories of his grandmother’s ambrosia, a marshmallow-studded fruit salad.  To bring this vintage dessert to the modern table, Ratino steeps chewy tapioca pearls in coconut milk and coconut water for balanced sweetness, then layers in fresh tropical fuit, mango sorbet, and crisp shards of pink-peppercorn meringue. Pink peppercorns add a fruity, peppery bite to the meringue; lightly crush them to release their fragrant oils. For the lightest, snappiest meringue, bake it until completely firm and dry to the touch.



  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked large pearl tapioca
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup well-shaken and stirred unsweetened canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, crushed


  • 4 cups mango sorbet
  • 3/4 cup finely diced mango
  • 3/4 cup finely diced pineapple
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit pulp (from 8 passion fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon balm leaves or mint leaves, for garnish

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the coconut tapioca

Stir together 4 cups water and tapioca in a bowl. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

Step 2    

Drain soaked tapioca, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add coconut water, and cook over low, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add granulated sugar, coconut milk, coconut extract, and salt, and cook, stirring often, until mixture has thickened and tapioca pearls are tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Step 3    Make the meringue

While the coconut tapioca cools, preheat oven to 200°F. Place egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar and salt, and beat until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until completely incorporated. Increase speed to high, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 4    

Using an offset spatula, spread meringue in a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns. Bake in preheated oven until firm and dry to the touch, 2 to 4 hours. Turn oven off, and leave meringue inside oven until completely dry, about 2 hours. Remove from oven, and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break meringue into small pieces.

Step 5    

To serve, place 1/4 cup sorbet in each of 8 (8-ounce) serving glasses. Top each with 1/4 cup coconut tapioca, 1 1/2 tablespoons diced mango, 1 1/2 tablespoons diced pineapple, and 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp. Top each with 1/4 cup sorbet, and garnish with meringue shards and lemon balm. Serve immediately.

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