Guest post and photos by Peter in Brazil, chef and co-owner of Pousada do Capão
Back in Rhode Island, whenever I could afford it (when Dole ran a Maui Gold supermarket special), I would stand in the produce aisle and carefully smell, pull the leaves from, and gently press my thumbs into dozens of fresh pineapples, until I found the perfect one.
I would nurse that perfect pineapple to full ripeness over the next week or so. Then, my daughters and I, in a rare and special ritual, would sit around a bowl of freshly cut pineapple chunks and savor each golden morsel, each juicy bite.
Like many Northerners, I had been brainwashed to associate pineapple with Hawaii, colonial New England hospitality, Cantonese cocktails, and the archway on Federal Hill in Providence (I know it’s a pine cone on that arch over Atwells Avenue, but it’s amazing how many people think it’s a pineapple.).
Forgive me, Carmen Miranda.
The only bromeliad that produces edible fruit, pineapple is actually native to southern Brazil and Paraguay and was cultivated by the Tupi Indians. It eventually spread throughout South America and the Caribbean. Columbus brought the first pineapple to Europe in 1493; Spanish explorers introduced it to the Phillipines and Hawaii. The rest is history.
Here in São Gonçalo, pineapple is everywhere, a true pantry item -- a way of life.
There's nothing more refreshing for shoppers in Belo Horizonte’s Mercado Central than a quarter pineapple cooled on ice and expertly carved from its shell as you watch and drool. We always stop on our way back home at our favorite roadside stand in Lagoa Santa to select the biggest, most fragrant bundle of four pineapples, tied with string and dangling from Marcelo´s truck.
Dona Luzia arrives unannounced from time to time at the inn, weighed down by a knapsack bulging with a delicious white-fleshed variety from her patch on the outskirts of town; I bought six from her on Monday. Dole can’t hold a candle to Dona Luzia. Let’s just say I really never knew what I was missing.
Pineapple resides in various forms in my pousada pantry. We always serve fresh slices on the breakfast buffet accompanied by homemade yogurt and granola, so there are always pineapples in various stages of ripeness in a huge wooden bowl. Leftovers are pureed, sometimes with fresh mint, and used as the base for sherbet or frozen to be served later as juice.
When we have more ripe fruit than we can use, Marlene makes a to-die-for pineapple spoon sweet, doce de abacaxi, which she puts up in jars to be served as dessert accompanied by our delicious Serro cheese. Or we might make a minted honey and pineapple crostata. Nothing goes to waste. I even use the chopped peels to make a pineapple liqueur which has a deeper, more redolent, real pineapple flavor and a brighter golden color than when made with the flesh of the fruit.
Gradually we have planted a few dozen of the spiny topknots in our orchard in hopes of harvesting our own production within a few years.
Carmen Miranda would be proud.
Love in pieces (amor em pedacos)
Love in Pieces is traditionally served at children’s birthday parties, the squares rolled in superfine sugar. I prefer it au naturel. It is normally made with fresh grated coconut, but you can substitute store-bought unsweetened coconut. Makes 12-15 pieces.
For the filling:
Fruit of 1 pineapple, grated or pureed in the blender
1 coconut, grated, or 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1 heaping Tbsp butter
2-1/2 cups sugar
A few cloves, and a piece of cinnamon stick
For the pastry:
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
Juice of 1/2 lime
All-purpose flour -- 1 cup to start, then add just enough to make a dough that you can roll out
1 egg, beaten with a tsp of water
Additional sugar or large-crystal sugar, for topping
Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a sauce pan and cook oven medium heat until thick enough that it coats the bottom of the pan (it should be quite thick). Cool, and remove the cloves and cinnamon stick.
In a large bowl or a Kitchenaid type mixer, cream the butter and sugar; then add the eggs, baking powder and lime juice, and add just enough flour to obtain a dough that you can roll out easily with a rolling pin. Let rest a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Butter a shallow metal 12” X 8” (or thereabouts) baking pan. This is just like making a rectangular two-crust pie. Divide the dough in half. Roll out the first half into a rectangle and line the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough. Add the filling and spread evenly. Roll out the remaining dough and lay on top of the filling. Pinch the edges to seal. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the pan in the oven and turn the heat down to 350F. Bake until golden, approximately 30 minutes. Cool and cut in pieces to serve.
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