As Latin ingredients go, few as are underrated as hearts of palm or "palmitos". These edible center cores of palm trees grown in Latin America (most famously, in Brazil). Their taste is similar to that of artichoke hearts but their texture is reminiscent of asparagus.
You'll be pressed to find them fresh in the U.S., but they are widely available in jars or canned in most grocery stores. They are great just out of a jar but I love to add them to my salads. I also enjoy cooking with them. I use them intercheangably with artichoke hearts in my favorite recipes for dips (warm mayo-based dips, especially), mixed into rice dishes or in soups.
Hearts of palm are low in calories, which of course gives me the perfect excuse to eat them often. The ensalada mixta or mixed salad is commonly enjoyed as a side dish in Latin homes every day. It can be a mixture of lettuces, some sliced tomatoes, and a few extras. Here is one of my favorite ways to make this salad a bit more special.
Ensalada de Palmitos y Tomates
3 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thinly
7-8 hearts if palm, sliced into 1-inch slices
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Arrange the tomatoes attractively on a large platter. Sprinkle the hearts of palm all over the top of the tomatoes; mound the onions in the center of the salad. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and serve immediately.
Copyright© Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2011; All Rights Reserved. No part of this post nor any photographs or recipes can be copied, re-posted, or otherwise disseminated without the proper, written consent of the author.