From Chris Halpin
Pineapple is plentiful at this time and there are so many things you can do with it. Conjuring thoughts of tropical flavours and faraway places, I always feel like it’s a little winter getaway when I eat pineapple.
To pick a ripe pineapple, first ensure that it is firm and smells like a pineapple. Tug at one of the spears and if it easily comes free, then you know you have a good one. To prepare a pineapple, start by cutting the top and bottom off. Place it upright and start to slice the skin away; be sure to cut deep enough to clear the divots. Then cut from top to bottom into four wedges. Take one wedge and hold it upright and cut the hard core from the centre. Then cut into pieces any way you like.
1. Pineapple Salsa
This is great with grilled meats or just as is, with chips. I like to use a chile that is only a little hot, like a Fresno chile. Mix together in a bowl 1 c. finely diced pineapple, 1/2 c. finely diced cucumber, 2 red Fresno chiles (I have found them at Co-op, Superstore and Community Natural), finely diced and seeds chopped, 1 shallot finely diced, 1/2 c. chopped cilantro, 1 t. ground coriander, 2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt and worked into a paste, 2 T. lemon juice and salt to taste. Makes 2 cups.
2. Prosciutto-Wrapped Pineapple on Greens with Cajun Crème Dressing
This is a great starter salad, that looks like more work than it is. To make the dressing, whisk until smooth ١/٤ c. whipping cream, ٢ T. mayo, ٢ T. white wine vinegar, ١ T. Mexican chile powder, ١/٢ t. hot sauce, ١/٢ t. salt. Cut 8 thin 3” long pineapple spears and wrap each with a slice of prosciutto. Put a handful of arugula on each of 4 salad plates and drizzle with dressing. Place 2 wrapped pineapple spears on each plate and garnish with caper berries. Serves 4.
3. Braised Pork Rib Roast with Pineapple, Winter Vegetables and White Wine
I’ve used a pork rib roast, but this will work with any cut of pork roast or even a chicken. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put a 2 kg. pork roast, fat cap up, into a roasting pan. Generously salt and pepper the top, place in the oven and bake until the roast has turned crispy and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. While it’s baking, prepare the vegetables. Peel and cut 1 large onion, 3 large carrots, 3 celery stalks, 4 parsnips, and ١/٢ fresh pineapple into 1-inch pieces. Remove the roast from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F. Arrange the vegetables and pineapple around the roast with a sprig of fresh rosemary and 1 bay leaf. Pour in 1/2 bottle of white wine. Cover, return to the oven and braise for 40 to 50 minutes. When the vegetables are tender, remove from the oven and place the pork on a platter. Place the roaster with the vegetables over low heat and bring to a boil. Make a paste of ١/٤ c. water and 2 t. cornstarch. Stir this into the sauce and allow to thicken, adjust the seasoning before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
4. Pineapple Prawns with Snow Peas and Cashews in Black Bean Sauce
You can also use asparagus or green beans, all good. Put ١/٤ c. water, 1 T. rice wine vinegar, 1 T. black bean paste, 1 t. cornstarch into a bowl and mix well; set aside for later. In a pan over high heat, put ١/٤ c. canola oil, ١٦ prawns, 1 t. black pepper, 1 T. grated fresh ginger, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, and sauté until the prawns start to turn pink. Add 12 chunks of fresh pineapple, cut about the size of the prawns, and continue to sauté until the prawns are cooked and the pineapple is tender. To finish, add 1 handful of snow peas and the black bean mixture; stir until the sauce has thickened and simmered for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve over rice. Serves 4.
5. Pineapple Jerk Chicken
I love the spices of Jamaican jerk, but I find a traditional jerk, with the scotch bonnet chiles, too intense. This is my take on jerk, which is much less fiery. Grate 1 small onion, put it in a bowl and mix well with 2 T. molasses, 1 T. salt, 1 T. grated fresh ginger, 1 t. ground cloves, 1/2 t. allspice, 1 t. ground black pepper and ١/٢ t. chile flakes. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a casserole dish, put 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks, 1 red pepper, cored and diced, 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered. Pour the sauce over top and roll to evenly coat all. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and pulls away from the bone easily. Serves 4.
6. Pineapple Fritters
These fritters are a great alternative to pancakes. This is one of my favourite recipes to cook in coconut oil. The combination is quite memorable. Put 1-١/٢ c. flour, ١/٢ t. nutmeg, a pinch of salt and 1 t. baking powder into a bowl, whisk together, and set aside. In another bowl, put 1 egg, lightly beaten, 2 T. brown sugar, 1 t. vanilla and ١/٢ c. milk. Lightly beat together and stir in 2 c. crushed pineapple, drained. Add the dry ingredients and stir into a paste. Put 1 c. coconut or canola oil into a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, spoon about 1/4 c. of batter into it to make each fritter. Fry until golden. Serve with maple syrup and berries. Makes 8 to 12 fritters.
7. Rum Baked Pineapple with Chocolate Ice Cream
This is simply a great dessert with no fuss. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut 1 fresh pineapple into thin 2-inch spears. In an ovenproof skillet over medium heat melt 2 T. butter and add 1 c. brown sugar and ١/٢ c. dark rum; stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble. Simmer without stirring for 2 minutes, add the pineapple and stir until evenly coated. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pineapple is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve warm over chocolate ice cream. For a bit of fun and to turn the simple into the sublime, give your guests a jigger of rum to pour over the pineapple and a book of matches to set the rum alight. Serves 4 to 6.