Eating for Life

Island flavor in your backyard

Photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD; styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA | The Kansas City Star
With kebabs made from pork and tropical fruits, island flavor is as close as your grill.

Feel like you’re suddenly stranded on a deserted patch of burnt grass while family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are lounging in a vacation hammock by the sea?

Don’t get mad. Get even. Plan your own mini luau.

The highlight of the traditional Hawaiian feast is a roast pig, something few home cooks would ever have the time or inclination to prepare.

By downsizing the concept, you can capture those same exotic flavors but skip the back-breaking labor of digging a pit. Just thread a skewer with lean pork tenderloin in a Polynesian-inspired marinade with fresh pineapple.

It’s long been understood that pineapple contains vitamin C, which helps keep the immune system functioning properly. In recent years pineapple continues to receive the thumbs-up. The tropical fruit contains the enzyme called bromelain, an anti-inflammatory that research shows may relieve the swelling of arthritis as well as reduce blood clots, lowering the risk for stroke or heart attack.

The Star’s recipe for Pork and Pineapple Kebabs also has chunks of fruits and vegetables that are as nutritious as they are colorful on the plate: red onion (quercetin), red pepper (beta carotene), sweet potato (beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) and papaya (vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene).

Shopping tips: When buying a fresh pineapple, choose one that is fragrant. It also should be dense and heavy for its size. Avoid brown spots and be sure the leaves are green. Pre-cut pineapple chunks are available on the salad bar at most supermarkets, or you can use the rest of the fresh pineapple for another use.

Cooking tips: Similar to the enzyme papain found in papayas, bromelain in pineapple also acts as a natural meat tenderizer, which is why it is often used in marinades.

Papaya is difficult to grill. To avoid having it fall through the grate, skewer the pieces twice, or omit the papaya from the skewer and garnish the kebabs with fresh, sliced papaya on the plate.

Pork and pineapple kebabs

Makes 6 servings

1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons sodium-reduced soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1  1/2-inch cubes (about 1  1/4 cups)

1/2 red onion, cut into wedges about 3/4 inch thick

1 papaya, peeled, seeded and sliced into strips about 1  1/2 inches wide

1/2 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1  1/2 -inch pieces

Place pork cubes in zipper-top plastic bag. Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, ginger, garlic and jalapeno pepper; stir to combine. Pour 3 tablespoons juice mixture over pork; seal bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Cover and refrigerate remaining juice mixture.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high or allow coals to burn down to white ash. Drain meat and discard marinade. Stir oil into reserved juice mixture. Place sweet potato cubes in small glass or microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 teaspoons water. Cover and microwave on high 2 to 2  1/2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Uncover and allow to cool slightly. Alternately thread pork cubes, sweet potato cubes, pineapple, red onion wedges, papaya pieces and red pepper onto 6 skewers. Place kebabs in shallow baking dish or tray. Brush generously with juice mixture. Grill 15 to 18 minutes or until pork is just slightly pink when cut, for medium doneness, turning so they brown evenly and brushing with remaining juice mixture midway through cooking.

Per serving: 199 calories (16 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 244 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss