A few weeks ago I had what I thought was a wonderful opportunity. I was invited to show some of my photographs in a nearby artists’ cooperative gallery. I put together about half a dozen of my favorite images, framed, and matted them. Along with oils, watercolors, pottery, and jewelry from other artists, the photos were arranged for a show.
As is the local tradition, the new show was inaugurated with a Friday evening opening complete with sparking water, wine, and appetizers. Each artist was asked to bring some kind of food, so that set off a perpetual struggle in my mind – what to serve? I found a recipe for chorizo tapas that sounded delicious, but I worried that gallery visitors might get grease on one of the oil paintings. Then I thought of empanadas filled with hearts of palm. I had first tasted them forty years ago at a party held by one of our Brazilian friends.
The bonus that moved me toward this option was that I had a can of hearts of palm in the pantry. At the same time, making the dough for empanadas seemed like more effort than I wanted so I decided to use frozen puff pastry. The end result turned out to be these heart of palm puffs.
Heart of palm, also called palm heart or palmito, can be harvested from the growing tips of nearly all palms, but this may destroy the palm. The commercial variety comes from the peach palm, a plant from the Amazon that now is grown throughout Central and South America. It is sustainable without destroying the palm for future growth. Supposedly you can find fresh palm hearts in gourmet grocery stores, but I have only seen the canned variety.
The gallery opening was crowded, and the puffs disappeared. So did the gallery. What the reader needs to know is that nearly every person who lives in Santa Fe considers himself/herself to be an artist. The other factor is that there may be more galleries than residents. That is a certain formula to assure that many galleries disappear quickly amidst the competition. That was the fate of our co-operative, and my first show did not survive for this post.
Heart of Palm Puffs
1 can (14 ounces) hearts of palm
- Old Bay seasoning
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup parsley, minced
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Drain the hearts of palm, slice them into ½ inch coins, and marinate them, covered, in the refrigerator, with a little of the liquid from the can, a good sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper
- Combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
- Thaw the puff pastry according to package instructions. Then on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/16 inch thick. It should be large enough that you can cut 40 2 inch squares.
- Working quickly so that the pastry does not dry out, place a heart of palm disc in the middle of half of the pastry squares. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of parsley and Parmesan cheese mixture.
- Dab the edges of the square with the egg yolk mixture, top with another square, and press the edges together with a fork.
- Place the puffs on a Silpat-lined baking tray. Brush the tops with the egg white mixture.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of an oven preheated to 400° F.
- When golden brown, remove the puffs from the oven, and cool them on a cooling rack.