Grilled Rum-Soaked Pineapple with Caramel Rum Sauce

Grilling fruit in the summer is the best way to get a sinfully delicious taste while feeling guiltless about what’s going in your mouth.

Of course, soaking that fruit in rum and brown sugar and adding a generous scoop of ice cream and drizzle of caramel rum sauce doesn’t exactly score you that same healthy feeling. But I promise you, it’s worth the calories.

In the Cwach kitchen, we love all kinds of grilled fruit. The heat from the grill causes the natural sugars in the fruit to caramelize, and it becomes a decadent, wholesome dessert that is light and refreshing in the summer. Just take your fruit (peaches, watermelon, pineapple, bananas and apples are lovely to grill) and brush it with a little olive oil and perhaps brush on some honey or sprinkle on brown sugar. Grill over medium-high heat until the fruit softens and develops those gorgeous grill marks. If you don’t have a large outdoor grill, a grill pan or sauté pan works as well.

But sometimes, a simple, healthy treat just won’t cut it. On these nights, try this rich rum-soaked grilled pineapple with caramel rum sauce. To start, grab a firm whole pineapple that smells sweet and fresh, cut off the top and bottom and remove the skin and eyes with a sharp knife, slice it into thick slices and remove the core with a paring knife. (Alternatively, you can use that pineapple slicer that has been sitting in your kitchen drawer since your wedding five years ago that you’ve never figured out how to use until you finally watched a YouTube video on it. Not that that happened to me.) Whatever you do, just avoid using the canned pineapple rings. Fresh is best, I promise.

The longer that you let the pineapple soak in the rum and brown sugar marinade the tastier it will be, but allow the fruit to soak in the rum mixture for at least 15 minutes. When you remove the pineapple from the marinade, be sure to keep that strong-smelling rum mixture- once reduced, this will be a delicious sauce to drizzle over your grilled pineapple and ice cream.  Remove the leftover pineapple chunks by straining the rum mixture into a saucepan and allow the sauce to reduce, whisking constantly.

Once your fruit is grilled and your sauce is reduced, place your pineapple rings on a small dessert plate, sprinkle with extra cinnamon, add a healthy scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream and drizzle the caramel rum sauce on top. Serve and enjoy!

Grilled Rum-Soaked Pineapple with Caramel Rum Sauce

Ingredients
½ cup dark rum
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus extra for dusting)
1 firm pineapple, cored and cut into 6-8 rings
Cooking spray
Vanilla ice cream

Directions
Combine rum, brown sugar and cinnamon and whisk well. Place pineapple rings in a shallow baking dish and pour rum mixture on top. Flip rings over several times until well coated, then let soak in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (but up to four hours), flipping the pineapple halfway through the soaking time.

When ready to cook, strain extra rum sauce and transfer to a small saucepan. While whisking constantly, bring sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until reduced by half. Let cool.

While the sauce is cooking, heat grill over medium-high heat until hot. Spray grill with cooking spray. Add pineapple slices in an even layer and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until browned and grill marks appear. Transfer to a serving plate.

Dust each pineapple ring with cinnamon and top with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle with rum sauce using a spoon. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted slightly from http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/easy-grilled-pineapple-recipe/

Weather Woes

It’s 2 a.m., and I wake to see a screen illuminating an otherwise dark room. Bright greens, reds, yellows and oranges color the screen, and I know what that means: South Dakota weather is acting out again, and Farmer Dan is anxious about his crops.

It’s a common scenario that plays out in the dead of night often during these hot stretches of summer. While I can sleep soundly through tree branches crashing down and deep thunder rattling our house, the lightest whisper of rain wakes my farmer up and has him reaching for his iPhone to check the radar. For the farmer, summer brings new growth of crops and lush, green pastures, but it also brings the threat of severe weather that can desolate a farmer’s entire year.

Growing up as a town kid, I never thought much about the weather. I was, of course, worried about getting the cars under shelter during bad storms and staying away from lightning, but I was fairly oblivious to what weather could mean to others in my community and state.

That ignorance did not last long, as life as a farmer’s wife opened my eyes quickly to the power of South Dakota weather. Our first year farming after Dan’s dad passed away brought the one of the worst droughts since the 1930s, and I saw firsthand how discouraged farmers can get when all of their hard work is for naught. Like every farmer in South Dakota, we’ve faced challenging weather conditions in our four short years managing the farm – not enough rain, too much rain, record heat and cold spells, excessive wind and deadly hail.

The new generation of farmers is starting their careers with the ability to have constant communication about weather that is heading their way. Rather than tuning in to the evening news or waiting for breaking updates, farmers like Dan can now watch with trepidation (or relief) as a storm system either heads for their land or moves away. It’s both a blessing and a curse – the ability to know so much is incredible and can protect the farmer from getting caught in a bad storm, but the stress that comes with watching the seemingly inevitable destruction of your livelihood can be unbearable.

For the farmer, summer brings new growth of crops and lush, green pastures, but it also brings the threat of severe weather that can desolate a farmer’s entire year.

It’s a frustrating feeling, to be sure, to lack so much control over something that affects your quality of life so greatly. The farmer spends hundreds of hours cultivating his fields, and all of that can be wiped out in a matter of minutes. There’s no amount of skill or passion that can keep a storm from ruining months of hard labor.

This can be a difficult position to be the partner to the farmer, watching as the colors flash on the radar and hoping for the dark greens and yellows that indicate a nice soaking rain is on its way. It’s the hot, humid days where you can just feel in the air that a storm is brewing that you know it’s going to be another sleepless night for the farmers who care so deeply about their crops. At that point, all we can do is pray for the weather to pass over the farm and neighboring farms, and ask for understanding if our crops face destruction. As a farmer, you have to accept that there will be years when the weather will not be in your favor, when the countless hours of work are dashed in a moment. It’s been a hard lesson, but learning to take the bad with the good is just a part of life on the farm.

Grilled Salmon with Tomato-Peach Salsa

After a Fourth of July weekend full of endless noshing, Farmer Dan and I wasted no time jumping back on the healthy bandwagon and returning to lighter summer fare.

One of our favorite meals to eat in the summer is grilled salmon with some variation of fruit relish. We’ve prepared grilled salmon with a mango-kiwi relish (just combine 1/2 cup diced peeled mango, ½ cup cubed peeled kiwifruit, ¼ cup chopped cilantro and ¼ cup fresh orange juice), a mango-pineapple salsa (mix together 1 cup diced fresh pineapple, 1 diced mango, ½ cup chopped red sweet pepper, ¼ cup chopped red onion, 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 finely chopped jalapeno, 1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel and ¼ teaspoon salt) and this refreshing tomato-peach salsa (shown below).

Using these versatile, sweet and tangy fruit relishes is an easy way to switch up your meals without learning new techniques. If you have leftovers, these fruit relishes are equally delicious atop fish tacos, grilled chicken or a spinach salad (but if you’re anything like us, there won’t be leftovers!) And now that local fruit clubs are starting to deliver those gorgeous Georgia peaches, you’ll find this is a great time to try this tasty tomato-peach salsa.

While salmon pairs well with grains like quinoa, couscous or wild rice, if you’re looking to add some green to your plate, look no further than fresh asparagus. Our favorite way to prepare asparagus is to simply roast it with olive oil and salt and pepper. It’s also wonderful if you want to squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of the spears, add freshly-grated Parmesan cheese or toasted pine nuts (or all three!)

A few tips: When preparing asparagus, make sure to snap off the woody ends of the asparagus with your hands. Using your hands rather than a knife allows you to find that perfect breaking point where the woody end and the fresh asparagus spear begins. Once trimmed, coat generously with olive oil and salt and pepper and allow to roast at 425 for 12-18 minutes, or until tender.

For perfectly grilled salmon (we often use skinless 5-ounce portions for the sake of convenience), make sure to clean your grill grates extremely well before you begin and spray your grill generously with oil. We also rub olive oil directly on the salmon prior to seasoning to keep it from sticking and to help the seasoning stick. Once placed on high heat, don’t touch it for five minutes until you have good grill marks, and then flip it over and keep cooking until it starts to feel and look like it could flake. If you’re grilling salmon with skin, grill skin-side down and let it crisp, then flip.

Finish this relaxing summer meal with a nice pinot gris or a lighter red like pinot noir and enjoy.

Grilled Salmon with Tomato-Peach Salsa

Ingredients
1 cup chopped, peeled peach
¾ cup quartered cherry tomatoes
¼ cup thinly vertically-sliced red onion
3 Tablespoon small fresh mint leaves, torn
3 Tablespoon small fresh basil leaves, julienned
2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) wild Alaska king salmon fillets (or sockeye)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Directions
Preheat grill to high heat.

Combine first nine ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt; toss gently. Season fillets with remaining ¾ tsp. salt and black pepper. Place fillets on a grill rack coated generously with cooking spray, and grill for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Serve with tomato-peach salsa.

Source: Modified slightly from Cooking Light magazine, July 2011, p. 16.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients
One bundle fresh asparagus
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Trim asparagus by taking the end of the asparagus and bending until it breaks.

On a tin foil-covered rimmed sheet pan, place trimmed asparagus in a single layer. Generously drizzle olive oil on asparagus and roll until evenly coated. Season well with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 12-18 minutes or until tender.