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Friday, December 7, 2007

Heart of Palm Amuse Bouche
with grapefruit, thyme, and champagne vinegar

The holidays are, among other things, about glitz and glamour. About feasting with your eyes. One of my favorite tricks for holiday entertaining is to serve a tray of amuse bouche in flat-bottomed Asian soup spoons. This allows you to gather together interesting combinations of tastes that don't conform to traditional "finger food" forms. But this dish can be served equally well plated for a sit-down dinner. Here I present a gorgeous (and comically healthy) holiday appetizer ready to dazzle in any spread of food: Heart of Palm amuse bouche that combines the subtle taste and texture of heart of palm with grapefruit, thyme. Champagne vinegar rounds off the presentation to add a festive sense of celebration.

To survive the holidays remember to eat deeply and greedily with your eyes. Allow yourself lavish food that entrances you and demands that you pay attention to the experience of eating.

This dish is also my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Briciole.

About Heart of Palm

For years heart of palm was prohibitively costly for most people, because harvesting in the wild killed the tree. Salad made from hearts of palm is often known as "millionaire's salad." Due to growing consumer demand, however, domesticated farm varieties have been developed, sometimes known as "peach palm" because they produce up to 40 "stems" that can be harvested without killing the tree. Ecuador and Costa Rica are main exporters, France is the world's main importer. Heart of palm is high in zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese. A one-third cup serving of this now-available delicacy has 2 g of fiber, 2 g of protein, no fat or cholesterol and only 15 calories.

Heart of Palm Amuse Bouche
with grapefruit, thyme, and champagne vinegar

By The Skinny Gourmet (E. McDonnell)

Ingredients (per serving):

2 Tbsp fine quality hearts of palm, sliced or diced
1/4 inch of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 inch of grapefruit rind, finely zested
1 pinch of kosher sea salt
drizzle with champagne vinegar

Assemble each spoon in the order indicated above. Begin with the base of hearts of palm. Scatter with thyme and finely zested grapefruit rind.
You want to check the quality of the rind before using it. When I purchase grapefruits for zesting I scratch the rind and smell it. The scent will give you a good indication of how potent or bitter that particular rind will be. Because the taste can either harmonize or overpower, it is key to use well-balanced zest.
Top with salt and a small amount of champagne vinegar. For this delicate balance of flavors I would not substitute standard or inexpensive vinegars. Other specialty vinegars, such as high quality muscat vinegar, would be ideal substitutes.

If you prefer you can soak the grapefruit and thyme in the vinegar for some time to infuse the flavors before pouring. However, given the small serving size, this may have the effect of unevenly distributing the herbs and zest across the portions.

Although I have not tried it myself, I was struck that this dish would pair well with seafood. In the future I may consider topping it with a single chilled shrimp.


Simona Carini said...

I found your last sentence very interesting, because by the time I got there I was thinking scallop. Very elegant morsel and so refreshing.

A Scientist in the Kitchen said...

This is a unique way of serving of heart of palm. We usually saute it with some other vegetables.

Laurie Constantino said...

Interesting ideas, and I agree with you completely about using high-quality champagne vinegar for something this small Beautiful presentation!

Kalyn Denny said...

I love hearts of palm, and I actually have a big jar of them in my pantry right now. Love the sound of this; I agree shrimp would be great with it!

Erin said...

Kalyn and Laurie, thanks for the compliments. This was one of my favorite recipes that I made and stockpiled before my departure for Ghana.

Simona, I think you are absolutely right that scallop would also be a good choice. I could particularly see it with a slight sear on the scallop to bring out a savory edge.

Gay, I generally eat heart of palm cold, most often in salads, but I think a saute is delightful. Lately I have been thinking about cooking them with some gorgeous lotus root. But for now this is all daydream, as neither are available to me in Ghana!

lorcan said...

Fantastic, a very crisp and clean look.

i have never tried heart of palm but i am eager to try it now.

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