Ingredient SpotLight

The word "Pineapple," is derived from the word pina, which was used to describe a pine cone by the Spanish. The fruit was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands which are now the leading producers of this fruit. Today, in the United States the pineapple can be marketed as fresh or canned and it is most widely used as tropical canned fruit in recipes.

There are four types of pineapples mainly found in the marketplace. These include the Gold, smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish and Sugar Loaf. They are sold fresh and canned and all have a sweet flavor. The Gold variety features an extra sweet flavor, golden color, and higher vitamin C content.

Select pineapples with a nice fragrant smell. If possible choose pineapples that have been jet shipped from Hawaii or Central America because they will be the freshest. Avoid those pineapples with sour or fermented odors. It is really ripe if you can easily pull one of the leaves out of the top.

Store at room temperature for 1 or 2 days before serving to allow the pineapple to become softer and sweeter. Store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days or cut pineapple into chunks and store for up to 7 days. Cut up pineapple also freezes well. Pineapple is equally at home in sweet and savory recipes and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It's fantastic on the grill and makes a highly versatile addition to any dish seeking a bit of tropical flair.

This month, I'm offering a selection of recipes featuring pineapple that range from special desserts to excellent main courses. Enjoy and happy spring!

Pineapple, Honeydew, and Mango With Ginger and Fresh Herbs

  • 2 cups diced peeled fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup diced seeded peeled honeydew melon
  • 1 cup diced peeled pitted mango
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh cilantro or mint
  • 1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed

Mix all of the ingredients except the sesame seeds in a large bowl. Let it stand for 10 minutes for the flavors to blend. Divide the fruit mixture among wine glasses and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Hawaiian Pizza

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I use smooth, low-fat Jif)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon gingerroot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 pizza crust (I use Boboli Thin Crust)
  • 1-2 teaspoon olive oil, Extra-Virgin
  • 4 ounces ham, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, very thinly sliced (I use yellow or orange)
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (I use a mixture of Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses)

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan.

Heat over low heat until the mixture comes to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Set the sauce aside to cool slightly.

Place the pizza crust on a pizza pan and brush with olive oil.

Spread the sauce on the crust. You may not need all of the sauce, based on your personal preference.

Lay the ham slices over the sauce, then top with the pineapple, bell pepper, onion, and cheese.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to turn a golden brown.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Pork Tacos

  • 1 large white onion, halved
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup guajillo chili powder
  • 3 garlic clove, halved
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 small chipotle chile or 1 large chipotle chile
  • 1-2 teaspoon adobo sauce, from canned chipotle chile in adobo
  • 2 3/4 lbs boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Corn tortilla
  • Salsa
  • Lime wedges

Coarsely chop one onion half. Coarsely chop 2 pineapple rounds, discarding the core; cover and chill the remaining pineapple. Place the chopped onion and chopped pineapple in a blender. Add the orange juice and next 7 ingredients; puree the marinade until smooth. Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and seal the bag, releasing the excess air. Turn to coat. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Prepare the grill (medium-high heat). Grill the remaining pineapple until warm and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the pork with some marinade still clinging until slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the pineapple and pork to a work surface; chop the pineapple into 1/2-inch cubes, discarding the cores. Chop the pork. Transfer it all to a platter; toss to combine.

Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining onion half and place it in a medium bowl. Add the cilantro; toss to combine. Grill tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

Serve the pork-pineapple mixture with the onion-cilantro relish, salsa, and lime wedges.

Cook's tip: To make your own guajillo chile powder, finely grind about 6 large dried seeded guajillo chiles in a spice mill to yield about 1/4 cup powder.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Pineapple Coconut Cheesecake

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 cups gingersnap crumbs, ground in the food processor (about 25 cookies)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 9 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (no-fat or low-fat)
  • 3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 3/4 cup neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat)
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 pinch ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 325*F.

Spray a 10" pie pan with cooking spray. Mix the gingersnap crumbs, butter, and brown sugar; toss with a fork until the mixture is moist. Press the mix into the bottom and up against the sides of the pie plate. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool.

Mix white sugar-salt (next 9 ingredients) in a blender. Process until smooth.

Place the cheese mixture in a large bowl.

Put the egg whites in a second bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Add the two tablespoons of white sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg-white mixture into the cheese mixture. Pour into the prepared crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center barely moves when the pan is touched. Cool to room temperature.

Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Combine the pineapple, brown sugar and ginger in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook about 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool completely. Serve with the pie. Enjoy!

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour