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Vegan Tri-Color Pineapple Ceviche

By Dennis Linden
Image of Vegan Tri-Color Pineapple Ceviche
This month’s staff recipe was created by Chef JC Marquez, Executive Chef at Desert Fall Country Club in Palm Desert on the outskirts of the famed desert oasis of Palm Springs, California. The area is a mecca for golfers, vacationers and celebrity residents. Consequently, the region hosts many social, charitable, and sporting events throughout the year that require culinary support, both personnel and top-grade fresh ingredients. Chef JC, a 30-year veteran in the Sports & Entertainment sector of the food service industry, always answers the call when Melissa’s needs a Chef de Cuisine, at an event in the area that the company is supporting with our fresh produce.

JC’s experience creating unique menus of high-quality dishes for large groups makes him the perfect partner. He knows how to shine delicious spotlights on Melissa’s seasonal line of exotic fruits and veggies from all parts of globe. His dishes are designed to inspire, educate and entertain the palates of those patrons fortunate enough to sample his creativity even in a large event setting. One of those events was the inspiration for this ceviche dish.

“I came up with this dish to promote the company’s specialty pineapple program in a small plate appetizer that could be easily enjoyed while standing and holding in one hand at a large gathering here at the club. A small-cup serving of a ceviche-like dish was the solution,” JC recalled. “One of the culinary challenges at a large event is that there are many dietary disciplines to please, so the ingredients for this dish were dominated by the three varieties of pineapples with just a few supporting flavor additives. I added hearts of palm more for color contrast as much as anything. However, since the sampling was billed as a pineapple ceviche, guests first assumed that the hearts of palm were scallop pieces! The concept of a faux scallop was very successful if only judged by the lack of leftovers!”

For those unaware of what “ceviche” is, here’s the Webster definition: "A dish made of raw fish marinated in the citrus denatures the proteins in the fish, causing it to become opaque and producing a firm texture." The process of “cooking” with citrus acid instead of a flame has always fascinated this writer. Ceviche is a very simple dish to prepare, using very basic fresh ingredients, though the results produce a multitude of flavors. JC follows “the rules” of ceviche while remaining outside the box with a unique, creative approach to an ancient dish.

It is widely accepted that ceviche originated on the coast of Peru nearly 2,000 years ago. The Moche civilization, who inhabited the area, prepared fish with the juice of a local passion fruit known as “tumbo.” The preparation of ceviche, as it’s known today, developed after the Spanish arrived. They began importing the Mediterranean ingredients of lime and cilantro to the region about 400 years ago. Thereafter, lime or orange replaced the tumbo, topped off with fresh cilantro. JC’s twist on this traditional recipe is a very tasty breaking of the rules that also provides a demonstration that pineapple varieties can differ in sweetness, texture and use.

Queen Pineapples are grown mainly in Australia and South Africa. The variety has a dark yellow fruit with a small core. Queens have a very pleasant aroma and mild flavor, though the fruit does not can well. Instead, it is best to consume it fresh.

Pinkglow® Pineapples are grown in Costa Rica. The interior fruit is juicier and sweeter with no acidic aftertaste compared to their yellow Hawaiian counterparts. The pink color was created by simply turning off the enzyme that turns a pineapple yellow. No additives aided in this colorization; in fact, the color indicates the natural presence of lycopene that was hidden by the yellow. Lycopene is beneficial to skin, bones, and immunity health.

Honeyglow® Pineapples have a radiant honey-colored shell that matches a remarkable golden, honey-sweet flavor within. It’s considered one of the sweetest pineapples on the planet thanks to a unique growing process that ensures each pineapple ripens slowly on the stem. Only at peak ripeness are pineapples harvested by hand and inspected for quality. The result is a consistently delicious and outrageously sweet fruit every time!

Together they spell: JC’S AWESOME CEVICHE!
Image of Chef JC
Like most chefs, JC’s cooking career was inspired by his mother’s everyday menu as a child.

“My mother’s attention to providing the family with three meals a day that no one would miss really prepared me for a culinary career and developed my approach to the art of cooking for others. Mom’s breakfasts were amazing! She would prepare her corn masa to make the best gorditas with refried beans, homemade butter and tomatillo salsa. For lunch, she always made my favorite dish – sautéed chicken with fresh homegrown tomatoes and fresh oregano. No matter what was served for dinner, the meal was always topped off with a cake baked from scratch and warm chocolate milk.”

After culinary school, JC landed a position as Sous Chef at what then was called the Arrowhead Pond, now The Honda Center, in Anaheim, California and home of The Ducks pro hockey team. It started his career in Sports and Entertainment, including stints at Angel Stadium, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, famed Lulu’s of Palm Springs and now Desert Falls CC – one of the region's toughest golf courses and busiest event centers. Designing a menu and cooking fine food for large numbers is a unique art; no hospital or cafeteria big pots of generic, to be kind, bland “nutritious” dishes plated with a large spoon. The audiences are demanding.

“Developing different menus daily, including proteins, salads and desserts without repeating the same concept makes Sport & Entertainment both challenging and exciting every day. At a sports stadium, I must put together a different menu for over 300 Skybox guests daily during a home stand as well as feed both teams twice a day. Once that meant developing eighty-eight non-repeated menus for a visiting team. Very challenging and very rewarding to accomplish, too!”

JC is also very proud of sharing his passion with those who have worked and learned under his tutelage at various stadiums, restaurants and back-stage kitchens as his own career found success. The chef community shares a unique culture; mentors develop mentors in a pay-it-forward type of sharing.

“Passing my passion, talent and culinary expertise to the students I have coached has been the real joy of cooking for me, to coin a phrase! And I am very pleased to brag that at least ten former sous chefs of mine are now holding positions as Executive Chefs, including one who is a regional executive chef. I feel like a proud father whenever our paths cross at events!”

While JC thrives on the challenge of planning and cooking for large audiences, there are also some unforgettable red-carpet memories that come with the job. The list of celebrities who he has met, served and clinked glasses with is impressive.

“I have made backstage food for over 200 concerts in my life. I was part of the Angels championship and the Colorado Avalanche. I was also a supporting chef for the grand opening of seven new hockey arenas and one football stadium. The celebrities I met along the way were very fun: Collin Power, Barbara Streisand, U2, Carlos Santana, DR DRE, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, Tina Turner, Alan Jackson, Player like Mariano Riviera, Big Papi David Ortiz, Tim Salmon and I could go on!”

I probably should not have asked a man who serves hundreds of guests at a time and has met so many famous personalities for the name of someone he would most like to sit and dine with at his own table. Yet JC’s answer was quick and echoed the responses of other chefs who have been asked the same. We all miss you, Anthony! No more needs to be said. The loss still reverberates throughout the culinary community.

When JC is not arranging a buffet table with some of Melissa’s products prepared deliciously or planning a menu for a large charity event, he can be found at his home base, in the kitchen at Desert Falls CC. The reader would not regret stopping by for lunch to sample one of his tasty daily menus firsthand. I can think of no better way to spend a lovely afternoon than in a beautiful clubhouse overlooking the lakes and lush course, noshing! Just don’t be tempted to sample that green view with the additional ingredient of a little white ball. It’s tougher than a well-done steak and will cloud a perfectly delicious afternoon! Thanks for the unique ceviche, chef! And they did taste like scallops!

Vegan Tri-Color Pineapple Ceviche
Image of Ingredients
1 jar Melissa’s Hearts of Palms
1 lb. Pinkglow® Pineapple, peeled, cored, small dice
1 lb. Honeyglow® Pineapple, peeled, cored, small dice
1 lb. Elefante Green Gold™ peeled, cored, small dice
1 cup Red onion, small dice
1 handful Cilantro, leaves only
4 oz. Lemon Juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Melissa’s Hatch Pepper Powder, to taste
Tortilla chips

Image of Hearts of Palm
Sliced Hearts of Palm into half-inch sections i.e., faux scallops.
Image of diced ingredients for ceviche
Core, then small dice all three pineapples; slice in half length-wise the largest, now hollow pineapple shell to use as a serving bowl.
Image of diced onions and chopped parsley
Dice the red onion, separate cilantro leaves, measure out lemon juice.
Image of combined ingredients
Combine all ingredients, except the Hearts, and toss lightly to thoroughly mix.
Image of ceviche
Gently fold in Hearts of Palm, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to pineapple bowl, sprinkle with Hatch Powder, and serve with tortilla chips.
Next article Marco’s Roasted Street Corn Gratin


Faye Levy - June 13, 2024

Nice idea!

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