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Tropical treats

Cat Campbell

Pineapple upside-down cake is always very popular.


As usual, I am craving delicious fresh fruit.

I bought a fresh pineapple the other day, but you can imagine my disappointment upon tasting it when my taste buds thought I must be eating a lemon. Talk about sour. It didn’t even have very much pineapple flavor.

This had never happened to me before, until recently. I have purchased pineapples that were overly ripe; in fact, downright fermented. But I have never purchased one that was sour. I never thought to check the tag on it in the store, so later on I noticed it was not a Dole pineapple and it was not from Hawai’i.

I was surprised to learn that pineapples come originally from South America, most probably from the region between South Brazil and Paraguay. From there, pineapples quickly spread around the continent up to Mexico and the West Indies, where Columbus found them when visiting Guadeloupe in 1493. Columbus then brought the pineapple back to Europe, from which it later made its trip to Hawai’i.

Next time I purchase one, you can bet I will be a little more selective. Here are some recipes that feature fresh pineapple and I hope you enjoy them.

Pineapple papaya salsa

3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced

3/4 cup fresh ripe papaya, diced

1/2 cup diced jicama

3 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 chili pepper (serrano or jalapeno), seeded and minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons lime zest

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1. In a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, combine pineapple, papaya, jicama, red onion, chili pepper, garlic, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro.

2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. For best flavor and texture, do not make more than 2 hours before serving.

Fresh pineapple upside-down cake

See note for a way to make this a gluten-free recipe. I have not tried it that way, however.

1 small pineapple peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Note: Instead of flour, use a mixture of 1 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca starch and 1/4 cup potato starch.

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the pineapple quarters into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Combine the sugar and butter in a saucepan (or cast-iron skillet, if it is well seasoned) over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir to combine and continue stirring while the sauce simmers for 4 minutes.

2. When the sugar and butter have combined and mixture becomes bubbly, smooth and thick, remove from the heat. Pour ​the caramelized sugar mixture into a 9-inch round pan; spread with a spatula to coat the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pineapple slices on top of the caramel in a single layer.

3. In mixing bowl, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder and salt. Beat butter in another mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add the vanilla and half the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until blended. Add the pineapple juice, beat to combine and then add the rest of the flour, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled after adding the pineapple juice, but it is fine.)

5. Pour the batter over the pineapple slices and spread evenly. Bake the cake in the middle of the oven, until the top is a deep golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. (The cake should not shake or wobble when removed from the oven.)

6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, before placing a plate over the pan and then inverting the cake onto the plate. (Keep the plate and pan firmly pressed together while turning.)

7. If necessary, replace any pineapple that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pineapple chicken

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup fresh pineapple chunks

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced ginger

3/4 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sliced green onions

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper to taste and add to the pan.

2. Cook chicken for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Add red bell pepper and pineapple to the pan and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, chicken broth, hoisin sauce and brown sugar.Add the sauce mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer.

4. Mix the corn starch with 1 tablespoon of cold water; stir until smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute or until sauce has just thickened.

5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions, then serve. Makes 4 servings.

Pineapple pie

Pastry for a double-crust pie

5 cups fresh pineapple cubes

5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup sugar

1. Place the pineapple cubes, sugar and cinnamon stick in a large pot. Turn heat to low.

2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the cup of water until it has completely dissolved, then pourmixture into the pot with the pineapple and stir.

3. Keep cooking the pineapple mixture for about 10 more minutes, after which it will begin to thicken. Once it thickens and changes into a more transparent color, keep cooking for 5 more minutes, then remove it from the heat and allow to cool.Discard cinnamon stick. The filling needs to be completely cool when added to the pie crust.

4. Line the pie dish with half the rolled-out dough and pour the cooled pineapple filling over it. Put the other piece of dough over the filling and cut a small vent on the top. Trim the excess dough from the edge of the pie and press down on it to form a seal between the top and bottom. Crimp the edge of the dough with your fingers.

5. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes. When the pie is ready, it will have a golden crust and the filling will be bubbling. Note: You can coat the top crust (before baking) with an egg wash if you like the shine and extra golden color.



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