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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If there is one ingredient in this world that immediately transports me back to my childhood home in Brazil it is hearts of palm.
Known as “palmito” in Brazil, this vegetable is popular in Central and South American cuisine.
In truth, I’ve never tasted this vegetable in an American recipe. I know there must be some, as canned hearts of palm are easy to find in any canned food aisle, but to me this unassuming vegetable tastes like my grandmother’s house.
In Brazil, hearts of palm are usually served as a side dish with a heartier lunch or dinner. They are often seen sharing dish space with pickled quail eggs, radishes and beets, all of which I love dearly.
They are also typically served in their basic tube shape, not chopped or sliced, simply removed from the can or jar and placed on the plate. Sometimes I still like to eat them this way, as a snack, straight out of the can.
Known for its “meat-like” texture, hearts of palm are often found in vegan recipes here in the States and used as a meat replacement.
In Brazil, they often can be found in pastel, a savory fried pastry usually filled with meat or cheese. “Palmito con queijo” is a popular combination, “hearts of palm with cheese.”
A great source of fiber and zinc, hearts of palm are harvested from palms. Although this can be problematic, when sourced from wild or single-stemmed palms, hearts of palm from multi-stemmed palm trees in Costa Rica and Ecuador are the most consumed in the world and many companies source their hearts from these farms, according to Michelin Guide.
The recipe I developed for this column is inspired by the simplicity of the Brazilian side salad, which is often just a way to get greens in your system along with whatever salty protein has been prepared as the main course.
Brazilian Side Salad
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cups of canned hearts of palm, diced
1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced
Greens of your choice, to taste
First, make the dressing. I personally like to combine all ingredients in a jar and then shake well, but you can also stir them together in a bowl.
Then, combine all your salad ingredients in a large bowl. Use as much or as little of the greens as you’d like, the real star here is the palm.
Add salad dressing to the bowl and toss well before serving.
Serve as a side or as your main course. You also can add any type of protein to this simple and easy salad.
Source: Alexandra Olsen