The core of the matter: Eat your pineapple cores

Melissa D'Arabian
Associated Press

Eating fresh pineapple always reminds me of balmy vacation nights in Hawaii. And since pineapples run a few bucks a pop, buying them frequently translates into considerable savings when compared to an actual trip to Hawaii, particularly when you’re carting along four girls, as I would be. Admittedly, the pineapple is a tad less exotic.

Still, it’s a great sweet summer treat.

Pineapple gets its unmistakable sweetness from natural sugars, of course, but this tropical fruit also is a fantastic source of vitamin C and fiber. But here’s another thing to get excited about: Pineapples are packed with protein-tenderizing enzymes that can do very cool things in the kitchen.

For example, these enzymes prevent gelatin from gelling. So step away from the aspics and gelatin salads if you are using fresh raw pineapple. But those same enzymes can work wonders in marinades. That is, so long as you don’t let the meat linger too long in the pineapple juice. About 20 minutes is plenty for most meats.

The problem with pineapple is that we routinely toss about 25 percent of our fruit when we throw out the core! Admittedly, the core is more fibrous than the rest of the pineapple. But as an avid snacker of the pineapple core, I think this issue is minor. Solving for the extra fiber is quite simple: Cut the core down to smaller pieces — diced or thin slices — or cook it to soften.

For example, you could slice the core thinly into coins for easy snacking. You also could grill the coins and drizzle them with honey. Or dice the core, saute it in just a splash of oil, then spoon over Greek yogurt for a dessert. Or pickle cubes of the core with hot water, vinegar, sugar and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Pineapple Core Ceviche

1 pound raw shrimp, any size, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup orange juice

1/3 cup finely chopped pineapple core (or the core of one large pineapple)

1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced

2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, finely diced (for less heat, remove the seeds)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (optional)

1 medium avocado, halved, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Small butter lettuce leaves, to serve

Sliced radishes, to serve

Lime wedges, to serve

In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, lime juice and orange juice. Toss well, then refrigerate. For a tender ceviche, marinate for 30 minutes. For a firmer texture, let marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

Once the shrimp has marinated, drain and discard the juice. Return the shrimp to the bowl and add the chopped pineapple core, onion, chilies, ginger (if using), avocado and cilantro. Toss well, then season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with butter lettuce leaves (to use as wraps and cups). Offer sliced radishes and lime wedges on the side as toppings.

The dish can be prepared ahead. To do so, cover tightly after draining and tossing with the onion and pepper, then refrigerate. About 30 minutes before serving, add the avocado and cilantro. Serves 6.

Per serving: 130 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 95 mg cholesterol; 510 mg sodium; 12 g protein; 3 g fiber.