By Melissa D’Arabian
Eating fresh pineapple always reminds me of balmy vacation nights in Hawaii. And since pineapples run a few bucks a pop, buying them frequently translates into considerable savings when compared to an actual trip to Hawaii, particularly when you’re carting along four girls, as I would be. Admittedly, the pineapple is a tad less exotic…
Still, it’s a great sweet summer treat.
Pineapple gets its unmistakable sweetness from natural sugars, of course, but this tropical fruit also is a fantastic source of vitamin C and fiber. But here’s another thing to get excited about: Pineapples are packed with protein-tenderizing enzymes that can do very cool things in the kitchen.
For example, these enzymes prevent gelatin from gelling. So step away from the aspics and gelatin salads if you are using fresh raw pineapple. But those same enzymes can work wonders in marinades. That is, so long as you don’t let the meat linger too long in the pineapple juice. About 20 minutes is plenty for most meats.
The problem with pineapple (not counting loose gelatin) is that we routinely toss about 25 per cent of our fruit when we throw out the core! Admittedly, the core is more fibrous than the rest of the pineapple. But as an avid snacker of the pineapple core, I think this issue is minor. Solving for the extra fiber is quite simple: Cut the core down to smaller pieces (think tiny dice or thin slices), or cook it to soften.
For example, you could slice the core thinly into coins for easy snacking. You also could grill the coins and drizzle them with honey. Or dice the core, saute it in just a splash of oil, then spoon over Greek yogurt for a dessert. Or pickle cubes of the core with hot water, vinegar, sugar and maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes.
In this recipe, I take the core of a pineapple and pair it with citrus juice and shrimp to make a summertime classic — ceviche. The acid in he marinade essentially “cooks” the raw shrimp, but you also can use cooked shrimp or fish, if you prefer. If so, you can reduce the marinating time to about 15 minutes.
PINEAPPLE CORE CEVICHE
Start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes
1 pound raw shrimp, any size, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup finely chopped pineapple core (or the core of one large pineapple)
1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced
2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, finely diced (for less heat, remove the seeds)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (optional)
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Small butter lettuce leaves, to serve
Sliced radishes, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, lime juice and orange juice. Toss well, then refrigerate. For a tender ceviche, marinate for 30 minutes. For a firmer texture, let marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
Once the shrimp has marinated, drain and discard the juice. Return the shrimp to the bowl and add the chopped pineapple core, onion, chilies, ginger (if using), avocado and cilantro. Toss well, then season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with butter lettuce leaves (to use as wraps and cups). Offer sliced radishes and lime wedges on the side as toppings.
The dish can be prepared ahead. To do so, cover tightly after draining and tossing with the onion and pepper, then refrigerate. About 30 minutes before serving, add the avocado and cilantro.
Nutrition information per serving: 130 calories; 50 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 510 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 12 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net