LIFESTYLE

On Zarela's Mind: A Puree for Palm Sunday

The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday. It is a joyous day that celebrates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem; the roads were covered with palm fronds. This begat many traditions: In Chamula, Chiapas, for example, the entry of the church is strewn with fresh pine boughs known as juncio. The idea is that the fragrance and essence of the pine oil cleanses your soul.

In churches both in the U.S. and Mexico, beautiful woven palm crosses or other figures are given out as mementos at this joyous occasion. In many places, celebratory lunches follow. For those, I like to serve my favorite, go-to appetizer, a hearts of palm puree from Veracruz.

Most people love to eat heart of palm. But in the 90s, as they say in Mexico, it was "como pegarle a Dios en domingo"—a guilty pleasure. The sin is that the whole plant has to be sacrificed to get at the delicious core. At the time, the species commonly used took a long time to mature and was over-harvested, so it became endangered. (It grows in very limited qualities in this country, primarily in the Florida wetlands.) But most growers now have switched to faster-maturing species, among them the acai which has become so famous for its fruit.

I've never seen heart of palm sold in its fresh state, but in Veracruz and places like Brazil and Chile the plants grow like weeds and in the tradition of our cultures, every part of the plant is used. People make furniture with the thick trunks or use them to construct tejabanes to cover their courtyard. Fortunately, they taste even better when they are cooked, brined and canned. They are available in many large supermarkets, so buy a few cans and have them at home in case you get unexpected guests, on Palm Sunday or any other time.

 

HEARTS OF PALM SALAD (ENSALADA DE PALMITOS)

Makes 4 servings as side dish

One 28-ounce or two 14-ounce cans of hearts of palm, drained
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
1/2 cup finely chopped whites of scallions
Dash of salt (optional)

Process the garlic to a paste in a food processor. Add the hearts of palm and process to a rough puree. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream until you see the mixture coming together a velvety puree. The absorbency of palm hearts can vary; any one batch may take a bit less or more than 1/3 cup.

Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the scallions. Taste for salt and add a little if desired (some canned brands have more salt than others). Serve within a few hours, though it can be held in the refrigerator for up to a day if you reserve the scallions a stir them in just before serving.

Award-winning restaurateur Zarela Martinez blogs at Zarela.com. You can also check out her how-to videos on YouTube

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