During these long hot days of summer my cooking mojo takes a nose dive. I don’t feel like doing much of anything and the thought of turning on the oven makes me cringe. Case in point: this weekend I baked two slab pies for a party that were delicious if incredibly frustrating. Hot kitchen and cold dough are not compatible in any way. It was a struggle that required a nap directly in front of a fan to cool down. While the pies were enthusiastically greeted at the party, I ditched them on the buffet table and immediately went to the bar to calm my overheated nerves. Not wanting to repeat that situation, today I wanted something sweet but something easy and nothing that would work up a sweat. I dug around in my unusually well stocked refrigerator, the result of enthusiastic shopping trips and the lack of energy to do much with my purchases. There was a pineapple with unfulfilled ambitions and a bunch of lemongrass that was supposed to go in something I never made. I looked at my little windowsill lime leaf tree and a decision was made.
Kaffir or Makrut lime leaf is one of my favorite flavors. Any Thai curry or soup would be lost without it’s bright, citrusy flavor. They’re not the easiest to find, especially out of season, but a good Asian market particularly a Thai market, usually has a stash in the freezer section if not fresh. Last year I tracked down a little tree of my own from the local garden center and have a small supply at the ready on my windowsill.
To get this started, an easy simple syrup was put on the stove to boil. I used regular granulated sugar but found a similar recipe online later that used palm sugar that sound like something worth exploring next time. Into the pot went a few stalks of lemongrass I’d beaten to a pulp with a meat mallet, a handful of bruised lime leaves and some fresh lime juice. Simmered for 5 minutes and left to sit and infuse, I had a wonderfully refreshing and flavorful syrup in no time. After straining, I drizzled it over cold pineapple slices for a simple, flavorful and refreshing dessert.
I also quickly learned that this syrup makes a really great cocktail with rum, lime juice and a muddled lime leaf. Wow. For the second drink, I muddled in some of the pineapple and it was even better. If there’s any left, I’m thinking about blending up the remaining pineapple with the syrup to make some popsicles. Bet those would be great too.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: COOL WINNINGS. It’s too damn hot to cook. These are the days when you make gazpacho, survive on cheese and charcuterie plates, make simple, fruity, cold desserts and drink a lot of chilled rosé. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? This dish is simple – pineapple with a bright, tropical flavored syrup. You can make it days ahead without breaking a sweat and mix it up a million ways. And with the leftovers you can make a cocktail. That is a winning recipe in my book.
Seven years ago: Chanterelles & Fresh Pasta, Wild Blackberry Jam
Six years ago: Betty’s Pies exploring Minnesota
Five years ago: Life in Southwest France
Four years ago: Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Three years ago: Hungarian Cherry Soup
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Carrot Green & Parmesan Bites
FRESH PINEAPPLE WITH LEMONGRASS AND LIME LEAF SYRUP
1 cup sugar (or shaved pale palm sugar)
2/3 cup water
½ cup fresh lime juice
5 bruised kaffir lime leaves
3 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 fresh pineapple
- For the syrup: Trim the lemongrass, cutting off and discarding the thin bits, leaving the fat stalk. Peel off the tough outer leaves and discard.
- Slice the lemongrass stalks in half lengthwise then bruise them well with something heavy like a meat mallet.
- Lightly bruise the lime leaves in the same manner.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add the lime juice, bruised kaffir lime leaves and bruised lemongrass.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, strain and discard the solids. I often let the mixture sit overnight and strain in the morning.
- For the pineapple: cut the top and bottom off the pineapple.
- Stand it upright and, using a sturdy knife, remove the peel by cutting between the fruit and the skin, following the contours of the pineapple.
- With the tip of a paring knife, remove the “eyes” (the tough dark spots). I do this by cutting out the eyes in a sort of spiral channel around the pineapple.
- Cutting from top to bottom, quarter the pineapple and then cut away the core.
- Cut each section into thin slices.
- Shingle a quarter of the slices on a plate, drizzle with the syrup and garnish with thinly sliced lime leaf strips.
- Serve cold.
- You could also serves this as a more casual fruit salad with other fruits such as melon, jicama and stone fruits or spoon the syrupy pineapple over ice cream or yogurt.