The pineapple: a long-time symbol of hospitality
What season is it? It’s spring, yes, but it’s also pineapple season. Although pineapples are available year-round, they’re at their best from March through June every year. High in vitamin C, pineapples are exceptionally juicy with a sweet/tart flavor that has made them one of our most popular fruits.
Pineapples were first discovered in the 15th century on the Caribbean island now known as Guadeloupe. Soon they were being cultivated in Asian, African and South Pacific colonies, countries where the pineapple is still being grown today. Other countries supplying the world’s pineapples are: Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil and Mexico.
Pineapples are quite perishable and, centuries ago, transporting them was unreliable and expensive. Because they were a rare treat, they became a status item for the wealthy. Housewives placed pineapples on their front doorsteps as a sign of hospitality and generosity.
When you’re shopping, choose pineapples that are heavy for their size and free of soft spots with a fragrant, sweet smell at their stem end. Avoid fruits that smell musty or sour.
If you have never prepared one before, a fresh pineapple’s rough, spiny surface can appear to be a challenge, but peeling it and cutting it up is easier than it looks, and the results are worth it. First remove the crown and base with a sharp knife. Place it on a cutting board, bottom down, and cut off the skin in thin strips, cutting from the top to the bottom all the way around. Then divide into quarters, slicing from top to bottom. Remove core, if desired, and cut pineapple into chunks or slices.
These three main dishes and two desserts are great ways to enjoy pineapples. Fresh pineapple is usually preferred, but the canned version is fine and more convenient, too.
Make the Caribbean Fruit Salsa ahead of time in anticipation of some freshly caught fish. Prepare the fish according to your favorite method, add a generous spoonful of this tangy salsa and dinner is a little more special. This salsa can also be a good dunk as a snack with corn chips, or added to sliced ham or turkey in a sandwich or roll-up.
Speaking of sandwiches, lettuce wraps have become popular and are one way to have a satisfying lunch, but without the bread. Cooked chicken combined with fresh pineapple and some Asian flavors rolled up in a crunchy lettuce leaf can appeal to any audience. Just plan to have plenty of sauce for dipping.
The Hawaiian Pizza was a favorite in our family. Somehow the ham, pineapple, cheeses and marinara sauce all go well together. This one is easy to prepare and the kids will love it.
If you want a light dessert with eye appeal, this Pineapple Champagne Granita (first cousin to a sherbet) is just the thing. Stirring the lumps every hour until it’s frozen is extra work, but yields a fluffy, satisfying result.
In her first job, Pam Hinthorn had a circle of friends who all shared this Snow Ball Cake recipe at their dinners together. Pam is still in touch with some of those people, and they say they still like to serve this dessert. Remember that it has to be assembled and refrigerated overnight. Frost it with more whipped cream and chill right up until you’re ready to serve. Strawberries are a good substitution for the pineapple and make a nice garnish.
Caribbean Fruit Salsa for Fish
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
½ cup diced fresh mango
½ cup diced papaya
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
½ medium-sized red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
About 3 pounds fresh fish, broiled or grilled
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh mint
Mix all ingredients, except fish and mint, together in a bowl. Stir to combine. Chill.
Broil or grill fish using your favorite method. Serve fish with a spoonful of salsa and garnished with fresh mint.
Pineapple and Chicken Lettuce Wraps
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ cups cooked, shredded chicken breasts
¾ cup chopped, fresh pineapple (1/2-inch pieces)
2 serrano peppers, seeded, deveined, finely chopped
1/3 of a medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
Small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
4 to 6 Boston lettuce leaves, washed and dried with paper towels
To prepare dressing, stir together rice vinegar, soy sauce and honey.
For the filling, combine chicken, pineapple, serranos, onion and cilantro. Add about 3/4ths of the dressing and toss together well.
Spoon a generous amount of chicken mixture onto center of a lettuce leaf. Roll up, tucking in sides. Serve with remainder of dressing as a dipping sauce.
1 prepared, unbaked 12-inch pizza crust
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup marinara sauce
2 cups chopped ham
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, well drained
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Brush pizza crust with olive oil; spread marinara sauce evenly over crust. Scatter ham and pineapple over sauce; sprinkle with cheeses.
Bake pizza for about 10 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is lightly browned.
Makes one 12-inch pizza.
Pineapple Champagne Granita
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 medium-sized pineapples
4 cups passion fruit nectar or orange juice
¾ cup chilled champagne or sparkling white wine
Whole mint leaves
To make sugar syrup: in a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
Peel and core one of the pineapples; cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a food processor or blender along with ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar syrup, and puree. Quickly blend in nectar (or juice) and champagne.
Transfer pineapple mixture to a shallow metal baking pan. Freeze mixture, stirring and crushing lumps with a fork every hour until mixture is firm but not frozen hard (about 3 to 4 hours). Freeze, covered, until ready to serve.
To serve, slice second pineapple (do not peel) crosswise into 1/2 –inch slices. Remove core from each slice. Just before serving, scrape granita with a fork to lighten texture. Spoon over slices of pineapple and garnish with sprigs of mint.
Makes about 9 cups granita, serves 6.
From Pam Hinthorn
2/3 cup pineapple juice
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Knox gelatin
½ cup boiling water
1 cup crushed fresh or canned pineapple, drained
1 pint plus ½ cup whipping cream (divided)
1 purchased angel food cake, cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch cubes
Place pineapple juice and sugar in a large bowl; add gelatin and stir to blend. Stir in boiling water. Let mixture stand until it starts to gel. Stir in crushed pineapple. Whip 1 pint of the whipping cream; stir into pineapple mix. Gently fold cubes of cake into mixture.
Line a bowl (about 7 or 8-inches in diameter) with wax paper. Fill with pineapple/cake mixture. Place another sheet of wax paper over surface and press down with a plate to flatten. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, remove wax paper, invert cake onto a serving plate and remove remaining wax paper.
Whip remaining ½ cup whipping cream and frost cake. Serve garnished with fresh mint.