I have received some requests to include more vegetable dishes on Graceful Cuisine. I admit, whenever I think of vegetables or glaze over the vegetable section of a menu, in the back of my mind I am almost always thinking of salads. I’m not opposed to salads, but I’m aware that salads have an unspoken reputation of being boring, less tasteful, and undesirable compared to their meat entrée counterparts. Allow me to go out on a limb here and say that I enjoy a good fresh salad, and that I do sometimes choose salads as my main entrée when dining at a fancy restaurant.
I should also tell you that when I choose to order a salad instead of a dish of meat and carbs, I do it willingly; not grudgingly. My reasons are usually because I want to stay on a leaner diet or because the chef has put together some interesting ingredients in the salad. Let’s face it: if salads only consisted of lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise combinations, it would be pretty unattractive to eat healthy. But thankfully I am courageous while exploring new flavors and I like to imagine a meal where the side salad gets all the rave reviews.
This salad recipe incorporates the almost opposing flavors of golden beets and heart of palm, two ingredients that I bought at random on my shopping trip to the local organic Whole Foods store. Heart of palm is a vegetable that comes from the inner core of the cabbage palm tree stem, which grows in tropical climates (notably Costa Rica and Ecuador). They resemble white asparagus without the tips and taste sort of like artichokes. Heart of palm is also called palm heart, burglar’s thigh, palmito, or palm cabbage. The labor for harvesting these vegetables is quite intensive, and so they are regarded as a delicacy even though the fresh (not canned) varieties are usually only available in the countries where they are grown. You will notice that the heart of palm has a center core surrounded and attached to a cylindrical base with a larger diameter. The center core portion is the more prized section of the vegetable, which is sweeter and more tender because of its lower fiber content.
I chose to include a meat sausage to turn the salad into an entrée. You can leave out the sausage for a vegetarian version and serve it as a side dish. Pan frying the heart of palm and roasting the beets bring out the best flavor that these ingredients can offer. The skin of the beets must be peeled, which can also be done after it has cooked, as it simply slips away from its flesh. The tastefulness from these ingredients allows you to use less dressing without sacrificing on flavor.
4 golden beets
4 stalks green onions
1 tbsp olive oil
3 sausages (like chorizo or other flavor), thinly sliced
398 ml (14 oz) can hearts of palm in brine, drained, and sliced diagonally
80 g curly endive leaves
Herb and garlic dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400oF. Cut off the stalk and root ends of the golden beets. Peel the beets with a carrot peeler. Cut beets in half, then cut into wedges.
Trim roots from the green onions. Trim the stems to 2 inches, then half onions lengthways.
Place beets and onion in a single layer in a large baking dish.
Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large frying pan until browned. The sausage I used here in the picture is a chicken and red pepper sausage. Add the hearts of palm and stir fry until browned.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
Combine the hearts of palm, sausages, dressing, beets, onions, and greens in a large bowl. Toss and serve.