Whether it knows it or not, any fruit you could ever meet would love to be licked by hot, hot flames. When fires upward of 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit tickle the skin of peaches, plums and pineapples, a wonderful thing begins to happen. Working their way slowly from the outside in, attractive amino acids seduce sugar compounds into a fiery dance that leaves the naked fruit permanently scarred from the browning frenzy. This sticky-sweet caramelization opens up an entirely new realm of possible flavors and aromas, each of which is unique to the fruit in question.
Almost any fresh fruit is a good candidate for cooking over open fire, but the most dripping-wet pieces of ripe fruit, such as peaches, pineapples, plums and mangoes, are ideal. Their unique juices will be complemented perfectly by the smoky offerings of fruit woods (apple, cherry, peach, pear) emanating from the fire beneath. And pretty much every piece of hot, grilled fruit would enjoy the post-cooking refreshment of a cool drizzle of something sweet.
Char-grilled pineapple is a surefire crowd pleaser, and pre-soaking it in spicy booze is pretty much gilding the lily. For a simpler dessert — sans spice, alcohol and added sugar — you can just grill the pineapple rings by themselves.
1 fresh pineapple (or substitute canned)
About 2 cups tequila
1 to 2 jalapeños, depending on desired heat, diced with seeds removed
About 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cut a quarter-inch off the top of the pineapple, then carefully cut out its hard core. Pour in the tequila and jalapeño pieces and let soak for a few hours. Strain out the jalapeño pieces, then pour out and reserve the tequila for margaritas with a kick!
Cut 1/4-inch off the bottom of the pineapple and trim off the outer shell. Slice the fruit into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Liberally coat the rings with brown sugar and press some jalapeño bits into each. Let them sit for 20 minutes before grilling. Grill rings over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side. Top with more diced jalapeño and serve immediately. Serves about 5.
Let everybody make their own skewer for a treat tailored to individual tastes. Omit the spicy chipotle if certain taste buds aren’t so inclined.
About 1 tbsp chipotle pepper, ground (See Real Food Find, below)
Several cups of assorted fruit pieces (banana, grapes, mango, melons, papaya, peach, pineapple, etc.)
Combine the juice of 1 lime with chipotle powder in a dish. Slide the pieces of fruit onto skewers in personally pleasing patterns. Over medium heat, baste the skewers with the chipotle-lime juice several times as you turn them periodically on the grill. The skewers should take about 12 to 15 minutes to reach a lovely level of charred crispiness. Serve immediately. Makes about 5 skewers.
Chipotle pepper is made by slowly smoking ripe, red jalapeños over a wood fire to achieve that incredibly deep, smoky-hot flavor that elevates so many foods. You can smoke your own chipotles at home, or, for a truly fresh-tasting packaged product, order chipotle pepper from Penzey’s Spices; 1.2 ounces ground, $4.19; 1 ounce whole, $4.75.
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