Heart of palm salad with cherry tomato and avocado

Heart of Palm SaladIn 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

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk it well.
  2. 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.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except the avocado.
  4. 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!

Cooking curiosity: What is heart of palm?

Hearts of palmImage credit: Hearts of palm by Joel Kramer, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

What is heart of palm?

Heart of palm is the inner portion of the stem of certain types of palm trees. These trees grow in tropical climates with Costa Rica being one of the largest exporters of heart of palm to the United States.

What does heart of palm taste like?

The texture of a heart of palm is firm and crisp. It has a mild flavor that tastes similar to artichoke.

What are the nutritional benefits of heart of palm?

Heart of palm is important to staying healthy, by providing several key vitamins and minerals that support growth and immunity. Heart of palm contains 2% of your recommended daily intake of zinc which supports immunity and wound healing, vitamin C (4% of your recommended daily intake) and manganese (20% of your recommended daily intake), is a mineral important to bone building and wound healing.

How do you use heart of palm?

Heart of palm is typically eaten raw as a salad ingredient, it can also  deep fried or added as a crispy treat to a stir fry. Have you gotten your hands on some fresh heart of palm and don’t know how to get started? Here are some recipes using heart of palm:

What you about you? Do you love heart of palm? What’s your favorite way to eat it? 

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slaw

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slawI love tacos. They’re the perfect thing to throw together when you’re busy and want a fast, easy and tasty meal. If you pick the right ingredients, they’re pretty darn healthy, too.

These tacos definitely fit the bill. They do require some forethought, since you need to give the ingredients some time to get to know the marinade and dressing, but it’s definitely worth the effort to plan ahead. Your reward will be a healthy, flavor-packed dinner. You’ll get a hit of sweet and sour from the citrus and vinegar and hint of nuttiness, thanks to the seasame oil.

What about you? Are tacos a go-to menu item in your house? How do you make yours?

Vegan Tacos with Asian Slaw

Makes 6-8 tacos

6-8 6″ flour tortillas

Sriracha (optional, but recommended)

For the slaw:

2 c. shredded cabbage

6 radishes, julienned

1/4 c. carrots, julienned

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 t. sesame oil

1 T. brown sugar

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

Put cabbage, radishes and carrots in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic and ginger. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

For the tofu:

16 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed to get rid of excess water (if you’ve never pressed tofu, see this article)

1 c. orange juice

1 t. low-sodium soy sauce

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Slice tofu in half (lengthwise to maximize the surface area) and set aside. In a container large enough to marinate the tofu, mix all remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

After marinating, remove tofu and pat dry. Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick and place on to lightly greased baking sheet. Heat oven to broil setting and put baking sheet on the rack directly under the broiler. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until they start to brown on the edges (cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the level of moisture in the tofu, so keep a close eye on it).

When the tofu is to your desired doneness, remove from oven and assemble your tacos! Warm the tortillas and top each with slaw and tofu. If you like yours a little more spicy, drizzle with sriracha (you’ll be glad you did).

Quick and easy appetizer: Radish and butter crostini

Radish and butter crostiniI’m loving all things radish right now. Radishes provide many nutritional benefits and in northeast Ohio we’re approaching the time of year when eating them fresh from our own garden is a real possibility.

I also love eating radishes with a little butter and salt. I know the fat content of the butter negates some of the healthy benefits of the radish, but a girl has to treat herself now and then! All things in moderation.

If you’re looking a for an easy, flavorful appetizer with springtime flair for your next garden party, try this crostini recipe. Almost everyone likes toast with butter and adding the radish adds an extra dimension of flavor and texture to the experience.

Have you tried eating radish with butter and salt? What do you think about the combination?

Butter and radish crostini

Makes 12

1 French baguette (cut into 12, 1/2 inch slices)

4 T. butter, softened

6-8 radishes, thinly sliced

Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Heat oven to broil setting. Arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet and place under broiler to toast (I like to mist mine on both sides with a little extra virgin olive oil, but it’s optional). It takes less than a minute of broiling on each side to get the bread its perfect, golden toastiness, so keep a close eye on it! Remove bread from oven and allow to cool.

Spread butter on toast and arrange radish layers on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top as desired and enjoy!

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Photo of handcrafted soapImage credit: Formulary 55

Even though yesterday was Easter, it felt more like Christmas on Emmet Street! I got a new toy for the soap lab: a soap planer and beveler from CDA Soap Works. I tried it as soon as I opened the box and I absolutely love it. It creates nice flat sides and beveled edges that will give my soaps a polished finish. It’s going to be very useful as I prep for my first maker event this year: Mom & Pop Shoppe sponsored by Crafty Mart. Mark your calendars to come to Musica in Akron and see me on April 25th! 

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers we are inspired by, check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

Are you a fan of Instagram? Me, too! You can find us there @emmetstreet. Follow Emmet Street Creations and you’ll be treated to outtakes from the soap lab and other (mis)adventures. Here’s a few:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

National Grilled Cheese Day is April 12! Check out this love letter to tomato soup and grilled cheese (one of my favorite comfort foods). Looking for a sweet toasted bread treat? Why not try these vegan french toast recipes? You’ll be glad you did.

The best brunch recipe: Easy skillet hash

Easy skillet hash

One of the best things about winter is it gives me an excuse to indulge in lazy Sundays.

The weather outside is frightful. Everything’s a frozen tundra so it’s not like there’s yard work to do. It’s too cold to open windows, so there’s no indoor painting jobs to tackle. Sure, I could participate in outdoor activities like skiing or something, but who wants to risk a broken leg? Instead, I pursue recreational sports like steaming coffee mug curls and one-handed newspaper reading.

Yep, lazy Sundays are the absolute best.

Because I have intentionally left my day open, I find Sundays are a great day for leisurely cooking. This is the reason brunch was invented.

This skillet hash is the best lazy Sunday brunch dish. All you have to do is put everything in an oven-safe dish (a cast iron skillet is best) and let everything get happy in the oven. I find the trickiest part is taking my eyes off my crossword puzzle long enough to watch the eggs when they go under the broiler. And, really, that’s not so bad. I’m back on my couch, under my snuggliest blanket and ready to start a day of television binge watching in no time at all.

Easy Skillet Hash

Serves two

1 medium potato (about 6 oz.)

1 medium yam (about 6 oz.)

1 large yellow onion

2 eggs

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cracked or ground pepper

1 T. plus 1/2 T. vegetable oil

Place cast iron skillet in oven and heat to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, cut potato, yam and onion into 1″ cubes into a mixing bowl. Add 1 T. of oil and spices to the bowl and mix well. When oven is heated, add remaining 1/2 T. of oil to the pan, coating the surface well. Add potato/yam/onion mixture to the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway during cooking time, or until potatoes are tender. Remove skillet from oven and turn oven to the broil temperature setting. Crack two eggs on top of potato mixture and return skillet to the oven, placing on the rack directly under the broiler. Cook until the egg whites are cooked and yolk is still runny, or desired level of doneness, about 5 minutes.

 

Butternut squash burgers (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Eating healthy... Butternut squash burgers...Delicious, vegan and gluten-free

I have a confession: I love butternut squash–but I hate prepping it–and sometimes I pick the less budget friendly option of buying it prepped for me. I’m not ashamed and it probably is actually more budget friendly, since it likely saves me the cost of a visit to the emergency room (my knife skills could use some work).

However, if you want to make this tasty burger and buy a whole butternut squash and prep it yourself, check out these tips for peeling and cutting a butternut squash (I’ve also found zapping it in the microwave for a couple of minutes before starting helps with the cutting process).

This burger recipe also features spinach and quinoa, making it a vitamin A and C powerhouse to keep your immune system humming and protein and fiber to keep your tummy satisfied, helping you stick to your resolution to eat healthier, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you pair these burgers with a small salad and some seasoned, roasted potatoes, you’ll have the perfect winter meal.

So, get your food processor out (unless you have a sharp knife and really strong biceps, it’s essential for this recipe) and make a batch of these today. They freeze well, so you can also have some on hand for a quick lunch.

Butternut Squash Burgers

Makes six, medium-sized patties

2 c. shredded butternut squash

2 c. baby spinach, loosely packed

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 c. great northern or navy beans

2 c. cooked quinoa

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. dried rosemary

1/2 t. dried thyme

In your food processor, combine squash, beans, onion and spices and blend until smooth. Add spinach and pulse until spinach is finely chopped and blended into the mixture. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and blend in quinoa. Cover bowl, put in the refrigerator and allow mixture to chill for at least an hour.

After mixture has chilled, heat oven to 375 degrees. Form mixture into six patties, placing each on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake patties for about 40 minutes, turning over once about halfway through the cooking time.

(Cooking note: These patties are very moist; if the burger will not easily release when it’s time to turn, it’s not ready to be turned over. If you force it, you will have a crumbly mess. Not that this ever happened to me during my cooking process…)