How are you? Fed up with the rain that seems to be lingering on and on here in New England? It seems like the sun has been very stingy with its availability don’t you think? I happen to love the occasional rainy day when outdoor activities are replaced by snuggling up with a good book in a comfy chair. But too many rainy days in a row are just dreary! So, we have to look for other ways to bring sunshine and color into our lives and that is where food can sometimes come into play.
Today’s recipe was inspired by a couple of different things. First, I happened to catch the first episode of Ina Garten’s latest season of Cook Like a Pro entitled simply Seafood. Are you crazy like me and watch cooking shows while exercising? It’s not the best combination for managing hunger, but because my brain is more relaxed when I am moving, it’s when I do some of my clearest thinking and connecting of dots, often for the blog. Does that make sense?
On the show, Ina made a bay scallop ceviche that looked really delicious and light. She also demonstrated her pro-method for cooking salmon in a cast iron pan and having done it since, I have to say it is pretty darn good.
The second inspiration was a recent visit to relatively new restaurant, Celeste in Somerville that I am hoping to write up on the blog next week. Celeste is a Peruvian restaurant that has hit the local restaurant scene hard and has been the recipient of many accolades and awards in its short life. Ceviche is a fixture on its menu and we tried one made with scallops and a vegetarian version made with hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. It was very clever and absolutely delicious I might add. My husband has always loved hearts of palm, but I honestly don’t use them enough in my cooking. If you have never purchased hearts of palm, they come either jarred or canned, are packed in water and can be found alongside artichoke hearts in the supermarket. They have a mild flavor with a little bit of crunch and are perfect in salads or even on their own with a vinaigrette.
So as I was debating what I might share with you for a Cinco de Mayo (or anytime) treat this week, I thought of Ina’s ceviche and how it would be so easy to swap out the bay scallops with hearts of palm, similar to Celeste. But, I wasn’t satisfied with just the one swap because Ina’s recipe uses red peppers and I prefer cherry tomatoes. She also abhors cilantro so she uses parsley, but my preference is to use the cilantro as it’s more traditional. I also played around with the proportions of ingredients and in an attempt to mimic the spicy notes of the ceviche at Celeste, added one red Aji picante, a Peruvian pepper that you can find jarred in some supermarkets. I used Goya brand that are hot and pickled so the note of vinegar was a nice addition to the ceviche.
The recipe includes the hearts of palm, crunchy Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, scallions, jalapeno, avocado, garlic and a lime vinaigrette. It makes a scant 5 cups and can be served like Ina does, in lettuce cups as a vegetarian course, in endive spears for a fun appetizer or alongside your favorite chips (I used scoops) for a dip. It’s colorful and bright both visually and in flavor. After I took my photographs, I chopped up all the lettuce and endive leaves and added lots of the ceviche to make a big salad.
I offered it to some friends who were over playing bridge which is not a bridge snack for sure, but when you want feedback, this is what you do! They all loved it (phew). I put leftover ceviche into another salad today. It held up reasonably well, but I would still plan to make and serve it to guests on the same day for optimal results…
Unlike the fish ceviche, you can make this a little ahead and allow the flavors to develop. The lime vinaigrette will keep the avocado from browning. The recipe is vegetarian and vegan and it can sit out without risk of spoiling like the more traditional ceviche.
And as with any recipe, please feel free to improvise. Add more or less ingredients as it suits your palate. If you prefer red peppers, add those back in to replace the tomatoes if you’d like.
In any case, I hope you give this Hearts of Palm Ceviche a try and let me know what you think!
I’ve made a gallery of some other recipes that may also fit into your Cinco de Mayo plans below. Let’s all hope that the sun will be shining very soon!
Until next time…