I can recall precisely the moment I fell in love with heart of palm, or palmito as they say here in Costa Rica.
I was ten years old at my Mom’s best friend’s house and she served us a big salad with butter lettuce, shaved heart of palm, and avocado all dressed up in balsamic djion. The pretty round discs with their delicate texture and subtle flavor enamored me. Something about them seemed so fancy, so special. Sixteen years later they have yet to lose their charm.
So imagine my delight when I found some fresh, organic heart of palm this week at the Farmer’s Market in Puerto Viejo. And let’s face it, after weeks of rice and beans I needed to taste something fancy, something special. This recipe for heart of palm ceviche is delicate yet flavorful and also happens to be vegan, wheat free, nut free, and raw… in case you care.
Because we’re in the Caribbean, I decided to serve the ceviche atop traditional patacones which might be my favorite snack on the planet. Patacones are unripe green plantains that are smashed like pancakes then deep fried and served with meat, rice, and beans, or as an appetizer with guacamole. They are a staple here in Puerto Viejo. I lightly fried them in coconut oil to keep them healthy, which lends a lovely Caribbean flavor to the dish.
4 fresh raw hearts of palm, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 habanero pepper, minced
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 unripe plantains
Makes about twenty patacones and two cups of ceviche
Begin by thinly slicing the heart of palm with a mandolin if you have it, a sharp knife will do otherwise.
Put the rounds into a large jar or tupperware and toss in the juice from the limes, some salt, and the minced garlic. Allow the mixture to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
For the patacones, begin by peeling the plantains. You may need to cut off the ends and slice a long slit along the side of the peel. The plantain inside will be firm and very starchy.
Slice the plantains into half inch thick rounds.
Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, enough to submerge the plantain slices about halfway, in a large skillet or frying pan.
Add the plantains and lightly fry until golden. Do not fry until crispy, that comes later.
Remove the plantains from the pan onto a cutting board and allow them to cool slightly.
Using the bottom of a skillet or a large jar press down onto the plantains flattening them about halfway to form little pancakes.
Return the plantains to the same frying pan, add more coconut oil if necessary, over high heat this time.
Fry until they become brown and crispy. Season to taste with salt.
Meanwhile, prepare your ceviche.
Remove the hearts of palm from the refrigerator and add the bell pepper, habanero, cilantro, and pineapple. Stir well and season to taste with olive oil and salt. Add more lime if needed.
Fold in the avocado.
Pile the ceviche on a platter with the patacones, or for a perfect party hors d’oeuvre top each individual patacone with a scoop of ceviche.