Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Cut Up a Fresh Pineapple

Is it really Wednesday already?  

We'll it feels like Tuesday and here's my post from yesterday, a request from my sweet friend Tauna.  She needs a lesson on how to cut up a whole pineapple   The Hungry Engineer gives the how-to and does the job just like I do.

How to Cut up a Whole Pineapple

The whole pineapples in the grocery store may look a little daunting, but they're actually quite easy to cut up, and the taste of fresh pineapple is far superior to what you will find in a canned product. The method described below will yield pineapple cut into chunks (as opposed to rings).

The first real step is choosing a good pineapple. Color is not necessarily a good indicator. There are certain varieties that are still green when ripe. The real test is smell. I don't care if the grocery store is crowded, pick up that fruit and give it a good sniff. If it is ripe, it will smell of wonderfully fragrant pineapple. Pineapples won't get any riper once they've been harvested, so choose one from the store that's already ripe. It won't get any better on the counter at home.

Let's break down the pineapple. Begin by collecting your pineapple, a nice solid cutting board, a large sharp knife, a bowl for catching the newly cut fruit, and a bowl for catching the scraps. I also find it helpful to have a clean kitchen towel (or a few paper towels) handy for this task – it can get pretty juicy.
Lay your pineapple horizontally on the cutting board. Holding it firmly with one hand, begin by slicing off the leafy crown and enough of the flesh at the top so that only the yellow interior of the pineapple is showing after you've made your cut (no brown skin). Slice off the bottom of the pineapple in a similar fashion. This will help the pineapple stay nice and steady during the next phase of the procedure. Key to enjoying your pineapple breaking-down experience is keeping the mess in check as you're cutting. Throw the scraps in the scrap bowl as you go, and catch any sticky pineapple juice spills with your towel.






Next, with the pineapple standing vertically on its nice flat bottom, carefully slice the bumpy brown skin off the sides, following the curvature of the pineapple. Discard the skin and rotate the pineapple as you go. Take care to get as much of the brown tissue as you can without cutting away all your pineapple – this can be easier said than done! To help a bit, look at pineapple from the top down. You will see the spots where the flesh bumps out, and there is a tiny spike in the center of each of the bumps. This is called the eye. Put knife to pineapple in such a way that the eye is in the center of your slice and you're catching a bit of the ridge on either side of that one as well as you slice down. Skip over the ridge you partially sliced into and place the eye of the next bump in the center of your slice, catching the rest of the partial ridge as you cut. This may seem unclear at first, but crack into a pineapple and you'll see what I mean.



The pineapple is very slippery at this point, so exercise caution. With the pineapple still standing upright, cut it in half length-wise. Turn 90 degrees and cut in half lengthwise again, yielding four pineapple quarters. For each quarter, carefully cut away the fibrous core. The core is the inside corner of your pineapple quarter, and it is slightly lighter colored than the remainder of the pineapple flesh. After I've cut my core piece from the pineapple quarter, I test that I've removed all the fibrous material by gently poking along the cut with my knife. If it gives easily, the core is removed. Repeat this with the remaining quarters.



Finally, for each quarter, lay it out flat on your cutting board, and cut it into lengthwise strips, roughly 3-4. With the strips laid side by side, carefully slice across the strips to produce your lovely pineapple chunks. It is important as you begin to slice the chunks that you taste test your pineapple repeatedly to make sure it is sufficiently juicy and sweet.


 


Don't be too terribly surprised if your scrap bowl has more stuff in it than your pineapple bowl. For my 5 lb pineapple, I wound up with about 2 lbs of fruit.



If you want the fancy pineapple rings instead of chunks, probably the easiest method (short of buying a pineapple corer) would be to follow the steps above through cutting the skin from the pineapple. Then lay it horizontally and carefully slice it. From there, with a small paring knife, trace around the core to remove it (it will be easily recognized in the slices). To be honest, I've never tried making pineapple rings, but another thing that *might* work would be to take a 1 ½" to 2” round cutter and use it to cut around the core in each slice (though this might result in crushing out some of the pineapple juice, which would not be ideal).

When done cutting up my pineapple, I store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator till I'm ready to use it. Sometimes, if I don't think I'll use it quickly enough, I will freeze some of the pineapple and use it as a tropical additive to my smoothies (though the flavor is much more distinct if you eat it fresh).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chili-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin


Can you believe we'll be celebrating our country's birthday next Monday?  Along with throwing traditional hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill Chili-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin will heat up your 4th of July barbeque.  It pairs well with all of your favorite side salads and yummy desserts, a fiery sparkler, that will add a new star to your holiday party.


Mix up the spicy chili-rub...


Trim visible fat from tenderloin and cover with chili rub... 


Prepare a batch of Kansas City Barbecue Sauce, (I like to double the recipe) and preheat your grill to medium-high heat.


Grill for about 15 minutes per side and add BBQ sauce in the last couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.


Slice, and plate tenderloins, adding your favorite garnish.


I'm sending best wishes for your happiest holiday ever.  Isn't the 4th just the best?  We are looking forward to time with our family and friends, starting the day at a pancake breakfast and bike parade, time out on the lake, and firing up the grill before fireworks and smores.  I can hardly wait!  Oh, before I forget, serve with lots of extra sauce and enjoy a fabulous time with your loved ones too.

Chili-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin
  • 2 pieces whole pork tenderloin (cleaned with silver skin removed)
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated onion
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups Kansas City Rib Sauce

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. In a bowl combine above ingredients with the exception of the BBQ sauce. Rub pork tenderloins liberally with the rub mixture.  Place tenderloins on grill for 15 minutes turning frequently or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees in the thickest part of the tenderloin. Baste tenderloin liberally with the BBQ sauce in the last minute of the cooking process.  Be careful to do so before, or the sauce will caramelize and burn on the grill.  Remove from heat and let rest for five minutes. Slice tenderloins into ½ inch thick slices.  Serve with extra sauce and lots of love.

Kansas City Rib Sauce

This is a rich, thick, tomato based barbecue sauce recipe often associated these days as Kansas City Style. You get that traditional combination of sweet with a touch of heat in a dark and thick tomato sauce. Adjust the heat by changing the amount of cayenne.
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Preparation:

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and sauté until brown. Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes until thickened.  Makes about 2 cups.


Make it a hot one!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Bird's Nest Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spring salads make me sing!

  1. The ratio is one part vinegar (or other acid) to three parts oil. That is very convenient because it breaks down to one teaspoon to one tablespoon.
  2.  The acid can be any vinegar (rice, balsamic, wine vinegar, lemon juice, etc.). The oil is most often a good extra virgin olive oil, but it might be grapeseed or canola (if I want to minimize it's flavor) or sesame, walnut or mayonnaise.
  3. Add mustard (Dijon, yellow or any flavor) for pungency and to stabilize the mixture.
  4. Usually I mix it in the bowl before adding salad ingredients. 


Also, some fun and easy tips to change a basic vinaigrette recipe up a bit:
  • Use stevia, (I prefer liquid stevia in dressings) sugar or pure maple syrup instead of honey
  • Use a flavored vinegar; tarragon, raspberry or red wine, champagne, rice wine or white wine vinegar instead of balsamic
  • Use a spicy or whole grain mustard instead of Dijon.
  • Garlic or not, it's your choice.
  • Add some fresh chopped green onion, dried onion or some Italian seasoning or any other herbs you like.
  • If you choose to use a juice, always use fresh; lemon, lime, or orange juice. 
So like me are you amazed that this is the last day of Spring?  We have been working in our yard, raking, planting fruit and shade trees and hanging feeders to bring in the birds.  One of my favorite things about our house is a small pond that is behind us and the birds and ducks like to congregate there, but I miss seeing them close-up.  So in their honor, and the fact that it took removing 3 nests from our front porch, (birdie behavior modification), "hey flying friends, we'd like you to move to the backyard, please."  Finally they complied and we are now observing new baby birds!

Here's an easy composed salad, my ode to Spring....Bird's Nest Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.



I found this little rake like tool at TJ Maxx, (I have no idea of what it's called ;D) and pulled it down the sides of yellow and green zucchini...


creating yellow and green julienne shreds that I laid over top a romaine and spinach bed.  


We grilled up some chicken breast, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and slice it on the diagonal.


Garnish nests with any of your favorite veggies; cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and marinated artichokes, quartered.  Finish with quartered hard boiled eggs, lightly roasted asparagus spears and feta cheese and add my favorite go-to dressing.

Best Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
Mix well with a whisk or food processor.

Good-bye spring, hello summer!

      Tuesday, June 14, 2011

      Peace, Love & Party Tips!


      Planning a Summer Barbeque Dinner Party?


      I'm ready to throw a party.  How about you?  Here are some great tips from the Reluctant Entertainer
      1. Get your outdoor entertaining space cleaned and ready for summer.
      2. Set the date and time; invite the guests.
      3. Plan the menu, choosing recipes that you can make ahead and that are easy to serve. Delegate aspects of the meal to keep it affordable, getting back with your guests on what you’d like for them to bring.
      4. Think ahead to how many tables and chairs you’ll need and the linens you’ll be using.
      5. Look in the yard for flowers, herbs, greenery – or head up to the Farmer’s Market – to make a simple tablescape.
      6. If you have kids coming, what fun things will they do? Badminton, swimming, lawn games, board games … have something in mind so they won’t be bored.
      7. Is your ITunes play list ready, or Internet hooked up, so you can play music from Pandora?
      8. Make sure the BBQ has enough coals, tools are cleaned, and tiki torches filled with citronella.
      9. The day of, set the table, using plenty of citronella votive candles to ward off the bugs, and make sure the “guest” bathroom is clean.
      10. Do your prep work in the kitchen to make the night as simple as can be.
      11. No matter what drinks you’ll be serving, always have plenty of water accessible for your guests.
      11. Go over your “check-list” and make sure you completed your tasks.
      12. Get yourself showered and ready for a fun summer night. Dress lite, as the last thing you want as the hostess is to be overheated.
      Let's get planning!

      Monday, June 13, 2011

      Maple Nut Pear Oatmeal Scones

      It's been 3 whirlwind weeks friends.  Thanks for all of the well wishes and warm emails for me and my guy.  He is recovering from surgery and I'm still trying to get my life in order.  That been said, you all deserve a treat out there, and I've got one, sweets for the sweets!

      Maple Nut Pear Oatmeal Scones

      Just before my life fell apart, I joined the Secret Recipe Club created by Amanda of Amanda's Cooking.  Over 100 food bloggers are participating.  It sounded like a party every month...after all who doesn't love a secret?

      Today is the day that we are posting our recipes and results.  I was assigned  The Foodies at Work.  Speaking of parties, these two gals are having their own in the city, (digging their NYC skyline cupcake logo) reviewing fabulous eats and creating many as well.  My guy has been after me to make more scones after our Royal Wedding Brunch.  I was inspired by their Maple Oatmeal Scones changing it up just a bit, adding chopped pecans and a ripe anjou pear.

      Maple Nut Pear Oatmeal Scones @singingwithbirds

      Maple Nut Pear Oatmeal Scones @singingwithbirds.com



      Maple Nut Pear Oatmeal Scones
      adapted from Ina Garten

      For the Scones
      3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      1 cup whole-wheat flour
      1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
      2 tablespoons baking powder
      2 tablespoons granulated sugar
      2 teaspoons salt
      1 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
      1/2 cup cold buttermilk
      1/2 cup pure maple syrup
      4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
      1 anjou pear, cored, peeled, and cut into chunks
      1 cup pecans, chopped

      For the Glaze
      1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
      1/2 cup pure maple syrup
      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. Fold in pear chunks and nuts.  The dough will be sticky.  Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. You should see lumps of butter in the dough.  Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 to 1 inch thick 10 inch circle.  Cut into 6 to 8 wedges. You should see lumps of butter in the dough.  Bake for 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.

      To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 10 minutes and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. I like to sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.  Makes 12 large scones.

      Sending lots of love,

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