Kitchen Witch - Tropical winter

Thai-style pineapple salad

Wednesday January 17, 2007 12:04 am EST

This just in from your neighborhood climatologist: It's hot out there, and if a Saturday earlier this month is any indication, the heat just keeps on keeping on. On that first Saturday of January, temperatures climbed into the low 70s in the Northeast, where the weather is supposed to be ... well, you know what it's supposed to be.

The parade of flip flops and capris I can deal with. But when I see photos of people sunbathing in January in the nation's capital, that's when I'm no longer sure where I am or what day, week or month it is.

When Jan. 6 feels more like June 6, the climate scramble doesn't just screw up your sense of place and time. It screws up your appetite. What does one eat for supper on a January eve that calls for al fresco dining in Portland, Maine? Out with the hot cocoa, in with the mojitos? Scrap that stew for barbecue? Let's fire up the barbie — because we're in Australia, right?

Poor me, I was so confused. And my head was spinning — could I be dizzy from the heat? I took respite under the shade of a Douglas fir and was determined to prepare something that would help restore my equilibrium.

One of the first things that came to mind was pineapple, with its cooling chunks of tropical mellow yellow. It would be a perfect antidote to the global-warming-induced haze I was experiencing and a quick way to rehydrate.

The recipe below is a page torn from the notebooks of Thai home cooks, who know their way around the sweet-savory-spicy-pungent balancing act. Strange as it seems at first, chilis, peanuts and soy sauce marry beautifully and are willing to go a step further, with small amounts of fish sauce and dried shrimp. Although stinky at first, your tongue will be doing a jig just a few minutes later. Make a batch of rice, and as the juices speak to the grains, all your worries about greenhouse gases will fade into the January-June sunset — at least until next month.

Thai-style pineapple salad

1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks, away from core

1/2 fresh chili of choice, seeded and diced

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup roasted peanuts,finely chopped

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon chopped, dried shrimp (optional; found in Thai groceries)

Place pineapple chunks in a medium bowl, and add chili, cilantro, peanuts and lime zest.

In a small bowl, combine lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce, and stir to combine, until sugar is nearly dissolved. Pour over pineapple and with a large spoon, stir to combine and coat fruit with dressing. Add dried shrimp, if using, and stir to combine.

Best served with rice. Great paired with anything grilled — fish, chicken, beef, pork, roasted red peppers, tofu.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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