Pineapple for dessert can be better than chocolate. Bold statement right? It's one of the many surprising truths I learned in Southern India. We have to be talking about a GREAT pineapple, granted, but it's possible to bite into a slice of honey-sweet, perfumy, jasmine-laced, yellow fruit and be bowled over by heady romance and tropical grandeur. Rare, but possible.

When I'm just being, in our Portland Palais in the clouds, I like to help recreate this sublime, sub- continent sentiment with the aid of coconut oil, a little chili dust, lime zest and brown sugar. And to accompany a plate of pineapple, a mess of coconut cream (vegan nirvana!), a tall glass of icey Hong Kong style Milk Tea. The rich, meatiness of the fruit, its flavors further concentrated by a quick roast in the oven are best washed down with a smooth glass of Milk Tea. The swishy coconut cream takes this whole dish to legit proportions. This is the stuff theater and unforgettable afternoon snackin. It's all over the top.

Hong Kong style Milk Tea has many different modes and manifestations.  The basics are a strong black tea combined with evaporated or condensed milk, sweetened to taste and foamy from pouring back and forth between cauldron to pot, the attuned process creates signature smoothness and slight bubbles. Some will claim only the addition of evaporated milk is tradition, others balk and prefer sweetened, condensed milk. The only rule is that there are no rules to the tea drinking soul, just inclination and personal enjoyment. I love Milk Tea iced as a midday treat. There should be some heft from whichever milk you choose and a great bitter tickle at the end of the sip, due to the strength of the black tea you've got on hand.

Roasted Chile Lime Pineapple with Coconut Cream
serves 2-4

for the Pineapple:

1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch disks
coconut oil
pinch of chili powder
pinch flake salt
brown sugar
zest of one lime 

for the Coconut Cream:
1 can whole fat coconut milk
agave syrup to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub each piece of pineapple with a little coconut oil (may have to warm it a bit with your hands). Arrange on baking sheet. Sprinkle both sides of pineapple disks with a touch of chili powder and generous handful of brown sugar. Turn pineapple over and do the same, evenly coating both sides with the aforementioned ingredients. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping pineapple at the 10 minute mark. Allow pineapple to cool to room temperature and sprinkle with lime zest.

Refrigerate coconut milk (in can) overnight or for at least 6 hours. Open and scoop the solid coconut mass into a bowl (or a bowl of an electric mixer), discarding the coconut water. Add the agave, vanilla and touch of salt to the bowl. Whisk on high speed for about 2 minutes until a smooth, uniform cream is created. Refrigerate until ready to plate.

When serving, pile the coconut cream and pineapple on top of each other, garnish with extra lime zest or a little toasted coconut flake if you have it.

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
serves 2

This recipe is hardly that, just a collection of loose ways of how I prepare this tea. It is infinitely variable to your own tastes and how you take your tea.

Boil 2 cups of water in a medium size pot. When water comes to boil, add 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite black tea (I like Ceylon for this), 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar to the pot. Bring mixture back up to a boil, turn off heat, cover and allow to steep for another 3-4 minutes. Now strain mixture into another pot, going back and forth a few times to create a slightly foamy texture. Pour from a tall height (as high as you can go!) into 2 tea cups. Sweeten more if desired. Serve hot or over ice.

Have you ever declared pineapple a dessert? If so what do you sip with it? And how about roasted pineapple?


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