8.07.2013

Put your Heart (of Palm) Into It.


I get a lot of food magazines. I actually get way too many food magazines. The problem, the reason why I say way too many, is that I insist on reading every word and staring at every detail of every photograph – and all in one sitting. Maybe everyone does that, but I feel like magazines, except for the literary ones, are more often enjoyed in a leaf-through-it-casually-and-pick-it-up-and-down-over-time sort of way. But me, once I pick it up and open the cover, I'm in it to win it until I flip that very last page. Kind of like me and a bag of chips.

Oh, and that's not all. Not by a long shot. I save them. I keep them all in a pile for a larger project. And once the pile reaches a certain height, about two or three times a year, I go back through every single page of every single magazine and rip out the pages that have recipes I want to play with and images that inspire me. After I tear them all out, I sort through them and file them into binders assigned to different categories; soups, breakfast, vegetables, poultry, holidays, and so on. The photographic inspired pages go into their own binder. It's like my own private Pinterest.

I can understand why Fred always tells me, 'It must be exhausting to be you'.

So now you see why perhaps I ought to cut back on the magazines.

And now that I'm moving across the country in less than two months (!), this all seems really idiotic. Especially considering if I ever want to find one of the recipes I can just Google them. But I can't stop myself. It's as if I am compelled. Which is scary since I just saw The Conjuring last weekend.

But, fairly often, I do refer to my binders of recipes to get dinner ideas. And just as often I refer to my binder of inspirational photos as a reference of how I'd like to visually capture said dinners.

So as I was poking around in the cupboard the other day I found a jar of hearts of palm. I honestly do not recall buying them and have no idea how long they had been living with me. I've always been fond of hearts of palm, but it totally reminds me of the early nineties. It lives in my memories with sun dried tomatoes, tuna tartare with mango, Dippin' Dots and Zima. I even vaguely recall a rumor going around that hearts of palm was bad for the world, kind of like the whole shrimp thing right now.

As I was holding the jar of hearts of palm and noodling down memory lane, reminiscing about white zin and baked brie, I remembered that very recently I saved and filed away a recipe for what else, hearts of palm. And I just so happened to have most of the ingredients. And what I did not have was easy to change out with other things, to make it my own. That's just kismet.


Heart of palm is an interesting thing. It is a vegetable. It's harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees. And yes, harvesting of many non-cultivated palms results in palm tree death. However, other palm species are clonal and moderate harvesting will not kill the entire clonal palm. Moreover, an alternative to wild hearts of palm are palm varieties which have undergone a process of adaptation to become a domesticated farm species. This variety is the most widely used for canning. And this very farmed variety is what we are buying at the market. But since harvesting is still a labor intensive task, palm hearts are regarded as a delicacy.

Move over foie gras, here comes something leaner?

Heart of palm does actually seem like a delicacy. It is delicate. It's soft in color and texture and has a subtle, muted taste. A taste that could be described as, well, delicate. Though I like to snack on one or two, straight up, no chaser, you will almost always find them in salads.

And here is no different.

I love this salad. It is bright and fresh and zippy. It's colorful and covers the entire texture spectrum, from super soft all the way over to super crunchy with everything in between. The original recipe called for parsley where I used cilantro. But I think any number of fresh herbs could and should be folded in as well; basil chives, shiso, mint, you name it. 

I will tell you now that once the hearts of palm jumped into that salad, they also jumped into a new memory category. One that is very much in the present. It was so simple to make and so fun to eat, that I bet once you try it, this is one of those recipes that will end up in your binder as well.


Hearts of Palm, Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad

Serves 2-4

1 cup mixed color heirloom tomatoes, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1/2 small sweet onion, cut into thin slivers
1 14-ounce cans hearts of palm, drained and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the onion slivers, hearts of palm, avocado and chopped cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk the lime zest and lime juice with the mayonnaise and oil; season the dressing with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss gently and serve right away.





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