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My World is a Better Place with Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Oh, I do love a challenge. An upcoming pop up was going to require a vegetarian option as a main to go alongside my Octopus Aguachile and Asian Shrimp with Spicy Ponzu and I was really hitting a wall. I wanted something just as fresh and summery and light but how in the hell do you make a dish that is synonymous with raw seafood without seafood in it?

I set out to make a vegan ceviche because it should really be a thing but it felt like I was fighting a losing battle for a while because nothing was going to be able to replace the shrimp/fish component. It just sounds impossible, right?


I tried a lot of different ingredients to sub in for the shrimp or fish and nothing was working. All of the bean alternatives tasted too beany. Tofu's texture was all wrong and I thought of doing jackfruit but that really works well for pulled pork and pulled pork ceviche is not something anyone wants to eat so I didn't even bother with that one.

I was about to throw in the towel, but I kept seeing that people were using hearts of palm so, after trying three grocery grocery stores without any luck and about to give up, I found can of them. I know, I know, the jarred hearts of palm are probably better but that is what I found so that is what I used. On my first try, I sliced them into thin slices because I thought they looked liked squid rings and were pretty but my tester said the texture felt wrong so, for the next batch, I chopped them up to replicate chopped shrimp or fish and that time, he could barely tell the difference. I did end up keeping about 1/4 of the hearts of palm in rings to pretty the place up a bit but I had to agree that once I diced it up and it had sat for a while, there was little difference between a fish ceviche and this one. There was no need to do anything different from my normal, Peruvianish ceviche although, if you don't have aji amarillo, you can skip it but if you do, add some finely diced jalapeños or something to add a bit of heat. I do urge to find some Aji Amarillo though because it's soooo good and I put it in everything.

You may be asking yourself, "self, what in the hell is a heart of palm?"

Well, I am glad you asked. It's a vegetable that is harvested from the inner core of specific varieties of palm trees, coming mainly from Costa Rica. It's kind of bland and full of fiber, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, B2, B6 and C so it's great because you can kind of make it taste like tons of things and it's quite nutritious. The texture was perfect for ceviche, minds were blown and I discovered that ceviche might be more about the limes, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic than it is about the seafood.

The next day, I made guacamole, spread that on a tostada and piled on some day old ceviche and it was even tastier - I almost never keep seafood ceviche in the fridge for more than a day but this stuff just kind of kept getting better and better, which is awesome.

No more worries about making it to take to a friends or leave it out on a buffet table because this dish is vegan and there is no worry about raw seafood spoiling and killing all of my guests! Winning!

Hearts of Palm Ceviche

serves 4-6
14 oz (398ml) can or jar of hearts of palm
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, small dice (i like to use different coloured tomatoes but you don't have to)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 3 or 4 limes
1 tsp aji amarillo or to taste
1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated on a rasp
1 tbls olive oil

Give the hearts of palm a rinse and dry them and put them on a cutting board. Hearts of palm are tube shaped so you just need to sliced them thinly or dice them about the same size as the tomato. I diced almost all of them and leave a few slices but that is up to you. Put them in a glass or ceramic bowl - no plastic.
Add the tomatoes, the onion and the cilantro, salt and toss well. In a smaller bowl, mix the lime juice, the aji amarillo paste, garlic and olive oil and then scrape that over the hearts of palm mixture and toss well, mixing thoroughly.
Put it in the fridge and let it sit for at least one hour.

Serve with tortilla chips or plantain chips and more cilantro. It's also nice with a few slices of avocado. It's also nice heaped on a guacamole smeared tostada.

This keeps quite well in the fridge and we will eat it for up to four or five days, if it lasts that long.

Rome Notebook: Postcard from Roma

The greatest thing about European travel in the age of the EU is that you can get dirt cheap flights for these short haul jaunts and although you have to go through security, you no longer have to go through customs all the time. Its more like flying from state to state or province to province than it is from country to country. The only downside is that you no longer get stamps in your passport but we managed to get three return flights on Veuling (Spain's budget airline) from Paris to Rome for $100 CD each so I will live without the stamp at those prices.

Aji Risotto Cakes - A Peruvian, An Italian and an Instant Pot Walk Into A Bar......

You all know how I love a show stopper and this one is a spectacular dish to serve the next time you have your boss/mother in law/new paramour over for dinner. Crispy, spicy little rice cakes with a centre of melty cheese, nestled in an acidic tomato vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of spicy yellow pepper/cheese sauce with a smattering of pickled red pepper, this baby is not only really delicious, it is a beautiful dish to behold.

For my Toronto readers, I am back at The Kingston Social House, next Wednesday August 9 for another Pop Up! This time the menu was inspired by my friends, the  MVPs - Most Valuable Peruvians.

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Earlier this month I was invited to the Toronto Zucchi Olive Oil Blending Event hosted by Aria Restaurant, here in Toronto.  I LOVE extra virgin olive oil and was intrigued by the whole blending thing, I made my way down to the venue to check it out because I am not missing out on a chance to have some science fun.

Boxcars and Beer - From Stouffville to Uxbridge and Back Again

I am always looking for something fun to do during the summer. Look, as much as I love driving to Niagara to hit a few wineries and grab a bite, you can only do that so many times before you start to get bored of doing the same thing every weekend. On a beautiful summer weekend, heavy tourist traffic can turn a 45 minute drive into a 2 hour excursion and I just don't always want to taste wine, if you can imagine.

Double Stuffed Mushrooms - Smokey Stuffed Meatballs Baked in A Mushroom Cap

I made some really delicious Manchego Stuffed Meatballs with Romesco recently to serve as tapas style appetizer. In fact, they have been such a huge hit that when I found out that Mushrooms Canada was holding their annual mushroom appetizer contest for the members of the Food Bloggers of Canada, I looked no further, although it required a bit of tweaking.

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I am on a mission to come up with a bunch of tapas style dishes that I can whip up for my summer entertaining because although I love to have guests over, I get in trouble for spending too much time in the kitchen while they are here. I have vowed to serve fewer items, served at room temperature or cold and that require very little last minute prep. Your guests want you to spend time with them, not leave them alone while you make magic happen in the kitchen, right?

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