In November, I took a trip to Costa Rica. While I went for the flora and fauna, I was pleasantly delighted by the food. Rice and beans for breakfast? Yes, please. Freshly juiced oranges, mangos, papayas, and pineapples any time I want? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I could have eaten my weight in avocados and fried plantains.
My first dinner in the country was the Talamanca salad at La Luz restaurant in The Alta Hotel. Talamanca, I learned from our friendly waiter, is a canton (or county) in Costa Rica, not an exotic fish or vegetable. The salad consisted of avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, a creamy basil yogurt dressing and the most romantic sounding vegetable I’ve heard of, heart of palm.
I obsessed about this salad the entire trip. As soon as I returned home and unpacked, I started looking for recipes online so I could recreate it. I found a recipe by Patricia Jinich on The Splendid Table that seemed very close, though it uses a bright lime vinaigrette instead of the basil-yogurt dressing.
I’ve made this salad several times and have made some minor changes along the way to suit my tastes. I cut the oil from 4 to 3 tablespoons and use only olive oil. I substitute basil for the oregano. I leave out the pumpkin seeds, although I’m sure they would add a delightful crunchy texture. Pine nuts might also work well.
This salad is light, refreshing and surprisingly filling. We’ve eaten this as a main course several times and have been completely satisfied.
Talamanca inspired heart of palm salad with tomato and avocado
Adapted from Avocado and Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad by Patricia Jinich via The Splendid Table
For the salad:
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped. Use less or leave out completely if you don’t like onions.
1 can whole hearts of palm, sliced into rounds
2 ripe avocados
1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or, for extra flavor, roast an ear of corn on the grill and remove the kernels)
For the vinaigrette:
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
Black pepper, to taste
- Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk it well.
- Add the chopped onions to the vinaigrette and set aside. I like to let the onions soak to remove some of their oniony bite. If you like that oniony flavor, then skip this step.
- In a separate bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except the avocado.
- When you are ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette and onions over the salad and mix well. Divide the salad into bowls and then add the avocado. This will ensure the avocado is nice and green when you serve it. Keep one of the avocados to use with leftovers later.
Has a vacation ever inspired you to create a new dish at home? Let me know in the comments section. I’d love some new cooking (or vacation) ideas!