Tropical fruit recipes for ‘getting away’ in your kitchen

A slice of pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream and cherries on top on a plate
Pineapple, mango and coconut offer a vacation in your mind for the start of summer in your kitchen.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Some years, you just can’t get away. Despite my desire for a vacation — particularly after the cold, gray start of this year — where I can just sweat and eat delicious fruit and sip cold drinks for days on end, it’s not in the cards for the rest of my 2023 calendar. Maybe this is why I’ve been craving mango, pineapple, coconut, papaya and other tropical fruits more than ever these past few weeks — anything to bring the tropical getaway to me without a costly plane ticket and the headache of travel.

That was definitely my aim in developing my latest recipe, a Summertime Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. It’s a cake that uses precut fruit from my grocery store’s deli section and a tube of almond paste to perfume the crumb with that cherry/almond essence you expect from other summertime fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums. Eschewing the traditional maraschino cherries leaves me room to pile on the pineapple so it’s, fittingly, in equal proportion with the cake underneath. I’ve already had a few slices sitting at my apartment complex’s pool, and it’s getting the job done perfectly without a flight to the tropics.

If you’re in need of a similar escape, buy some extra fruit and pair the cake with my Pork and Pineapple Adobo Roast With Pickled Pineapple Salad. I braise a pork shoulder, Filipino adobo style, in a mix of garlic, bay leaves, soy sauce and vinegar teeming with caramelized pineapple. More fruit is then lightly pickled and dressed with honey and chiles, providing a spicy but refreshing counter to the deep, sweet pork.

If you’re a mango lover, make Paola Briseño-González’s Za’atar Beef Cheeks With Fennel and Mango Salad, which pairs green mango and fennel in a crunchy, delightfully zingy salad to pair with beef cheeks braised with za’atar, dates and garlic. Use ripe mango to make Maria Zizka’s Mango Yogurt Pudding, which is a riff on Indian shrikhand. She brightens the mango even more with lime juice, then marbles it through lightly sweetened yogurt and adds pistachios for crunch.

And for the best hot-weather escape I can think of, either make your way to Sonoratown in DTLA for its Coconut Horchata or make it at home. Sonoratown adds coconut meat, milk, cream and water to rice and canela to make the traditional Mexican agua fresca. The result is a creamy, rich but light drink that transports you to Mexico — or anywhere else warm and breezy you want to be — in one sip.


Pork and Pineapple Adobo Roast With Pickled Pineapple Salad

This dish is incredibly simple and quick to throw together, but it does take three hours, albeit completely hands-free, to cook in the oven. If you want to make this dish but don’t have that much time to commit, make it in a slow cooker instead.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes, plus 3 hours unattended.

Pork and pineapple adobo roast on an orange plate on a green surface.
(Leslie Grow / For the Times)

Summertime Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This recipe uses the convenient precut pineapple from your grocery store’s deli section and transforms it into an elegant summertime treat. Almond paste helps provide a dense moistness to a cake that’s typically dry to balance the sweet fruit topping.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

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Za’atar Beef Cheeks With Fennel and Mango Salad

Beef cheeks are crusted in za’atar and then braised in a date purée, which gives them a complex herbal sweetness to balance the rich cut. If you can’t find cheeks, use beef chuck as a substitute. The tart and crunchy fennel and green mango salad lifts the beef with its bright flavors.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Za'atar Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Mango Salad
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Mango Yogurt Pudding

This sweetened yogurt pudding — inspired by Indian shrikhand — has a super thick, creamy texture. Start making it the day before you want to eat it to give the yogurt ample time to strain and thicken (or for a shortcut, you can buy prestrained yogurt like labneh).
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

Several dishes of creamy white pudding with mango slices
(Maria Zizka)

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