How to peel a pineapple…, if you’re Panamanian

Just before we get into that business, why is it called a pineapple? It looks nothing like an apple, thought I guess it is pokey like a pine cone… OK, that’s over, back to the fruit at hand.

With Summer heating things up, the grocers and markets are filled with delicious fruits, particularly those from more tropical climates. Pineapple happens to be one of my favorite fruits. Love, love, love IT! Love it! Believe me, once you’ve had a taste of fresh pineapple, you’ll snicker at the canned stuff. I want to make sure you eat as many of these fresh babies as possible, so I’ll give you some pointers to help you break it down.

Picking Pineapples: Put your senses to work.

See:Ā It should be a bright yellow, maybe a bit of green here and there. As with any other fruit, make sure there are no visible blemishes–brown or black spots. If youĀ can only findĀ them with very green peel, then take it home and allow the sugars to mature over a few days.

Touch: It should be firm to the touch, but not hard. It should give a little

Smell: Go ahead, put your nose to it. Pay special attention to the bottom, it’ll be the most fragrant area. It shouldĀ smell sweet with a hint of tartness.

Pineapples can be prickly, if you have sensitive hands, you may want to use something to protect them. Now for the fun part, this is how we breakdown a pineapple in Panama.

Remove both ends. You can break off the leafy top or just use a knife to cut about 1/2-inch off the top and bottom of the pineapple. This serves 2 purposes: it will stabilize the fruit and make it easier when removing the peel with a knife.

Stand the pineapple on one end (use a cutting board) and with the knife, beginĀ cutting off the peel of the pineapple. MoveĀ in a downward motion, always away from you.Ā  Give it a clockwise turn and repeat until you have removed all of the peel.

Remove the eyes. Cut the flesh in a shallow diagonal cuts on either sides of each row–you’ll probably be able to cut across 3-4 at a time. Remove the cut outs and repeat.

The pineapple will end up looking like a spiral. Kinda cool!

Now it is ready to slice and eat. One last thing, though. You want to make sure not to eat the core, it tends to be tough and it has an enzyme that causes your tongue to feel stiff and weird. It makes my lips feel itchy. Just stay clear of it.

Eating fresh chunks of pineapple is great, but check out this cocktail. That’s what I’m talking about!

Cookingly yours,


Summer = Pineapple cocktail(s)

Fresh pineapples rock. They’re delicious, satisfying, refreshing and good for you. They’re pretty too! They make for a healthy snack, but that’s not the only way The Hubbz and I enjoy our pineapple(s). Sometimes we make a few drinks.

We had lots of fresh fruit juices on our trip to Panama, we also had lots of cocktails made with Seco and fresh fruit juices. Seco Herrerano is one of the liquors made in Panama. It is distilled from sugar cane, has a faint sweetness but isĀ overallĀ tasteless, much like vodka. Incidentally, you probably can’t find it outside of Panama, vodka or light rum would be a perfect substitute.

Seco is usually served with fresh fruit juices, my favorites being passion fruit and pineapple. The Hubbz was sold with the very first one we had upon arriving in Panama. Fresh passion fruit that was slightly frothy, almost like a smoothie. But it wasn’t until we made it to BocasĀ del ToroĀ and saw the bartender mixing our drinks that we realized what was going on. She took the peel off the pineapple, removed the core and dumped the meat into a juicer. Then poured it into ice-filledĀ glasses and topped it, quite generously, with Seco. OH.MY.

I don’t have a juicer, but a blender works just as well. No need for a formula here. Glass. Ice. Light liquor. Juice. Stir. Drink. Repeat (the most important step). I really think I just wanted to brag about Seco Herrerano. šŸ™‚

Gulp, gulp,

See, Dad? I can Bake Ham!

Every year, my dad would get a turkey and a ham. He worked for the Panama Canal Commission, and that’s how they showed some appreciation. So, he’d show up, turkey and ham in hand and then he would cook them.

Cooking was mom’s territory, until recently, but Dad always handled the grill, omelets, the turkey and the ham. He would rub and rub, mix and pinch until we ended up with delicious dinners. I recently asked him about it, turns out my memory was pretty good. This is pretty much the way he did it, except I added some Herbs d’Provence… I love the stuff! Would you like me to share my dad’s recipe? I’m gonna anyway, so here goes.

Dad’s Baked Ham

1 6-8 lb cured, bone-inĀ ham (not sliced)
4 garlic cloves, whole
1/4 cp ginger, sliced

It is a good idea to cook the ham for a bit to get some of the excess salt/brine out. Add the whole, unpeeled garlic and ginger to a stockpot, place the ham in it and top it with water. Just before it begins to boil, lower the temperature, there’s no need to make it boil, you want toĀ keep it at a very slow simmer. Allow it to cook for aboutĀ 45 minutes. If it’s not completely submerged, simmer it for 20 minutes on one side, then flip and simmer it for anotherĀ 20 minutes. Remove it from the water and allow it to drain and cool.

For the glaze, mix together:
1/2 cp brown sugar
1 14 oz can pineapple, crushed
1-1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Herbs d’Provence

Preheat oven to 325Ā°. Make a foil tentĀ by folding 2 pieces of foil together, make sure they’re large enough to wrap the whole ham. Once the ham is cool enough to handle, score ham into diamonds and stud with the cloves.

Place the foil tent over a baking sheet and put the ham, fat side up, on the foil. Spread 1/2 of the glaze mixture all over the ham, taking care to make sure in seeps into the scores. Don’t worry if there’s liquid pooling at the bottom. Actually, that’s perfect as it will perfume the ham as it builds steam.

Tightly fold the foil around the ham, try not to squish it onto the ham or all the pineapple goodness will end up stuck to it. In the oven it goes, allow it to bake for 40 minutes. No need to check on it.

After the initial baking, remove the ham from the oven and raise the temperature to 400Ā°. Spread the rest of the glaze over the top and sides of the ham, and place it back in the oven, only this time leave the foil open. Bake it for another 15 minutes or until it is nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and transfer the ham to a cutting board or serving platter to slice. I like to save the juices and fruit at the bottom to put over the ham when I plate it.

That’s it. You’re gonna love this one!

Cookingly yours,

Puff the magic pastry

Sooo… The Pepperidge Farms contest allows you to enter 3 items: an appetizer, main dish and a dessert. I had already submitted an appetizer, and a breakfast entree, all I needed now was dessert. So here it is!

Pineapple Upside Up Tart

For the tart:
Pineapple slices, thinly sliced and quartered
1/3 cp juice from the pineapple
1/2 cp pecans, chopped
2 Pepperidge Farms puff pastry sheets
1 cp Caramel Topping
1 1/2 cp Pastry Cream

For the Pastry Creme (adapted from Let’s Cook French recipe)
Ingredients (for 6 people):
1Ā cpĀ milk
1/3 of a vanilla pod
2Ā egg yolks
2.5 ozsĀ sugar
1/8 cpĀ flour
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp bourbon (or your favorite liqueur)
Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla. Using your mixer, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until it stretches like ribbon when you raise it with the spoon, then add the flour. Bring the mixer’s speed to low and slowly pour the boiling milk on the mixture, being careful not to drop the vanilla pod.

Once you have incorporated all of the milk, put the mixture back into the pot you used to heat the milk and cook over medium low heat, stirring continuously. Remove from burner when thickened. Set aside to cool.

For the Caramel Topping:
1/4 cp butter
1/2 cp brown sugar
1/3 cp juice from pineapple
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp heavy cream
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and juice (you may need to add a little water to measure 1/3 cp). Bring this to a boil and allow to cook until the sugar melts and it begins to thicken. Add the cream, stir and remove from the heat.

To assemble the tart:
Preheat oven to 400Ā°. You will bake both pastry sheets.

First layer: On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, unfold one sheet and bake as directed. Remove from oven and with a flat spatula, press the down on the puff pastry to collapse the layers. Set aside and allow it to cool.

Second layer: On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, unfold one sheet and bend the edges upward to create a little dam. Add the caramel topping. Then spread the pecan pieces and top with the pineapple pieces. I used about 5 slices from a fresh pineapple, which I then quartered. You can use canned fruit. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.

Place the first layer on your serving dish, top it with the chilled pastry cream. Then carefully place the second layer on top. Allow it to cool for about an hour before serving.


Cookingly yours,