Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

You Deserve to Sail Away on a Kale and Pineapple Taco Boat

by 
Tamara Palmer
April 27, 2021

Before large-scale public events went into hibernation last year, my favorite regular gig as a professional DJ was to play food-themed music for thousands of eaters at street food events thrown by a company called Off The Grid here in San Francisco. (“All You Can Eat” by ‘80s group the Fat Boys was always a popular tune.) I also traveled to Southern California frequently and attended similar food fairs thrown by Smorgasburg and 626 Night Market for fun. Street food has also been a regular beat for me as a writer for about a decade, and championing these resourceful, unique vendors over the years, watching them grow and flourish, keeps me coming back for more.

Though these events were run by different producers, the participating food vendors at each were selected for their ability to make food that not only tastes good, but looks good enough to be devoured on social media. I dutifully sampled and shot photos of everything new that came on a stick, in a cone, dredged in the deep fryer or spooned into a pineapple boat, often waiting in long lines for the privilege.

Once the pandemic forced all of these gatherings to take a break, I was left alone in my kitchen to try and figure out how to make dishes that delighted me in the same way that trying a new food truck or mobile chef does. I also didn’t want to miss out on the joy I get in sharing food photos on Instagram, so I started thinking more about how to prepare food that has visual appeal.

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Pineapple boats look impressive, but you don’t need to wait in line or have top-level knife skills to make one. On the contrary, you can create a little bit of food fair fun for the family in under an hour at a fraction of the cost with this easy recipe for Kale and Pineapple Taco Boats. The addition of raw kale, which cleverly cooks at the bottom of the dish, offers a superfood boost. It’s also easily adaptable to accommodate your taste and/or what you have on hand. This recipe calls for ground beef, for example, but also works beautifully with ground pork, turkey or faux, plant-based meat. To make it a more filling entree, cubed meat, tofu or eggs will plus this up. 

The result may give you some vacation vibes, which you certainly deserve. Don’t forget to take a picture before you sail away!

Kale and Pineapple Taco Boats

 | 
Total cook time: 40 minutes
 | 
Makes 4 boats

Ingredients

2 large ripe pineapples

1 lb. ground beef

3/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 tbsp coriander

1/2 tbsp oregano

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp paprika

1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes

1 tsp roasted garlic powder (regular is fine, too)

2 tsp salt

4 cups baby kale or chopped kale of your choice

2 avocados, peeled, halved and sliced

1 white onion, diced

Cilantro for garnish

Optional accompaniments: sour cream, hot sauce, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeño, tortilla chips

 | 
Total cook time: 40 minutes
 | 
Makes 4 boats

Ingredients

2 large ripe pineapples

1 lb. ground beef

3/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 tbsp coriander

1/2 tbsp oregano

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp paprika

1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes

1 tsp roasted garlic powder (regular is fine, too)

2 tsp salt

4 cups baby kale or chopped kale of your choice

2 avocados, peeled, halved and sliced

1 white onion, diced

Cilantro for garnish

Optional accompaniments: sour cream, hot sauce, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeño, tortilla chips

Ingredients

2 large ripe pineapples

1 lb. ground beef

3/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 tbsp coriander

1/2 tbsp oregano

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp paprika

1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes

1 tsp roasted garlic powder (regular is fine, too)

2 tsp salt

4 cups baby kale or chopped kale of your choice

2 avocados, peeled, halved and sliced

1 white onion, diced

Cilantro for garnish

Optional accompaniments: sour cream, hot sauce, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeño, tortilla chips

Directions

1. Place each pineapple on its side and cut down the middle, starting carefully at the center by pressing the tip of the knife down into the flesh. Cut the pineapple in half before cutting the top leaves in half, making sure not to remove them altogether.

2. Carefully cut around the inside edge of the pineapple, leaving about a half inch all around and making sure not to pierce the bottom. Once again, be extra careful so as not to slice the top off.

3. Cut along each side of the pineapple core and under the soft flesh. Use a spoon to help remove all of the edible portions and place in a large bowl; you’ll use some of this pineapple for the taco filling, some as a topping, and may have a little leftover to throw into smoothies tomorrow. Cut under the core, remove and compost. Add any juice at the bottom of the boats to the bowl with the pineapple bits.

4. In a separate bowl, make your taco sauce. Combine 3/4 cup of pineapple bits/juice with the tomato paste, coriander, oregano, cumin, paprika, chili powder, chili pepper flakes, salt, and roasted garlic powder. Stir well to incorporate the tomato paste and set aside.

5. Add a splash of your favorite neutral cooking oil (I like peanut) to a frying pan and heat to medium. Add ground beef to the pan and break up into large pieces, then leave them alone for 5 minutes. Continue breaking up into smaller pieces and move them around occasionally until evenly browned, around 8-10 minutes.

6. Drain the oil from the pan, add the taco sauce and stir, making sure to scrape up whatever’s cooked on the bottom of the pan to add to the mix. Lower the heat and simmer until the meat is cooked through and the sauce has begun to thicken, about 10 minutes.

7. To serve, put ½ cup of kale at the bottom of each pineapple boat, then top with one quarter of the warm meat and sauce. Top with half an avocado, diced onion, pineapple bits and cilantro to taste.

About the Author

Tamara Palmer

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