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September 27, 2009

Hearts of palm (Recipe: hearts of palm, shrimp and cheese pizza)

Hearts of palm pizza

Guest post by Peter in Brazil, chef and co-owner of Pousada do Capão.

For several months I’ve been meaning to write about hearts of palm, so Lydia’s recent visit to our inn provided the perfect opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: I could cook with her; test the recipe for my hearts of palm, shrimp, and requeijão pizza; and photograph the results.

In my Boston and Rhode Island pantries, a can of hearts of palm was what Lydia would classify as a “pantry special” -- not a staple, but something purchased for curiosity’s sake, on impulse, or for a particular recipe.

Here in my Brazilian pantry, I always keep a jar or a can or two on hand. While they don’t hold a candle to fresh hearts of palm, in a pinch they add texture to a salad or a jardinière, depth and crunch to empadinha filling, body to a soufflé, or interest to a pizza, and they are a pretty decent substitute for artichoke hearts, which are completely unknown in these parts.

Heart of palm is the crunchy, creamy, ivory-colored inner core of the terminal leaf bud of any of up to twenty species of palm trees. It is an ancient food, eaten for centuries by indigenous populations of the tropics.

Heart of palm

There is a down side, though: harvesting the heart of single-trunk palms (which of course are the most delicious) kills the tree. With the heart removed, the tree will not regenerate. This wasn’t such a problem until hearts of palm became a gourmet commodity (no surprise that the world’s largest importer of palmitos is France).

Native populations in Central and South America made use of the whole plant –- leaves, bark, wood, nuts, oil, as well as the delicious heart –- and their consumption was in balance with nature’s bounty. But exploitation and irresponsible harvesting of wild palms, without concern for sustainability, have taken their toll on many of South America’s once vast native palm stands.

Efforts to cultivate palms have had some success, and environmental laws are in place to protect the endangered wild palms, but as with so many things, the forbidden fruits are the best!

Heartsofpalmpizza1

Hearts of palm, shrimp and requeijão pizza

This combination of ingredients is delicious! Use your favorite homemade or store-bought pizza dough to make this 14-inch round, freeform, or 9x13-inch rectangular white pizza. Requeijão cremoso is a type of goopy, Brazilian-style cream cheese usually sold in glasses or plastic cups in the dairy case of many supermarkets, especially in neighborhoods with Portuguese-speaking residents. (I always found it at Seabra Markets in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.) In a pinch, you can substitute four ounces of cream cheese melted over very low heat with four ounces of grated Muenster, stirring until smooth. This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 batch of pizza dough, rolled out to desired shape and size
1 14-oz can or jar of hearts of palm, cut into rounds or 1/4-inch dice
1 lb large (26-30 size) shrimp, shelled, sautéed in olive oil until pink, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 jar of requeijão cremoso (approximately 8 oz), or softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sliced scallion greens
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prebake the crust on a cookie sheet or pizza stone until just beginning to brown, 10 minutes or more. Remove from oven, flip over so that the bottom side is now on top, and spread the requeijão cremoso all over the crust (it will melt and be runny), leaving a 1/2” border around the outside edges. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper. Scatter hearts of palm pieces evenly over the requeijão, then scatter the shrimp on top, filling in the spaces. Finally, scatter the scallion greens and shredded cheeses evenly over the pizza.

Bake until the crust is fully cooked and the cheeses are bubbly and beginning to take on a little color, approximately 15-20 minutes. Then, be patient. I hate it when I burn the roof of my mouth, but I always do with pizza fresh from the oven. Let it cool a bit, and serve with beer or a cold, light white wine.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Peachy mama pizza
Bola de fubá
Pizza bianca
Scallion pancake pizza
Love in pieces

Comments

I I finally tried heart of palm a while back. Just love them!

I can attest - this pizza was delicious!
Ted

I learned to love palm hearts in France, mainly in salads -- but they sound like a great choice for a pizza topping. I mix cream cheese or soft goat cheese with an egg to make a custardy white topping -- might also work with this recipe.

This pizza looks and sounds delicious. I've always been curious to try fresh hearts of palm (as opposed to the canned) but they're prohibitively expense in Boston.

I've always been intrigued by hearts of palm.... this may be just the inspiration I need to give them a try! Looks wonderful!

I saw the title of this post and immediately knew it was 'Brazilian'. Living in South Florida, there is no shortage of South American-inspired cuisine and I have had this before. Delish!

Anh - Well then it's time to try them again! This pizza is easy and shows them off.

Ted - Thanks. You are a great guinea pig!

Mae - They are wonderful in salads and I have been using them in jardinieres of mixed vegetables. Custard sounds great but no goats in these parts...

Julia - the fresh palmitos are delicious. I do buy them every once in a while from street vendors who will strip off the "bark" with a machete to order. Rosangela makes the best saute of fresh palmitos with garlic and a little tomato.

Michelle - Do it! Try this palmito pizza with shrimp or with chicken sauteed with lots of garlic and a bit of heavy cream or whip up a filling for little tarts or turnovers.

Joan Nova - Here we make another Brazilian pizza with shredded sun dried beef sauteed with lots of onions, diced cooked butternut squash, requeijao and lots of scallions. Do you have that in sunny southern FL?

This is the first time I heat about heart of palms. Interesting!

Your pizza looks lovely :)

I have eaten these in restaurants, I like them.... but I really don't think I knew exactly what they were! thanks for the info and recipe!

I always have hearts of palm in the pantry. Love them. What a delicious pizza.

Karine - Thanks. I love it when these posts are informative and offer new info to readers!

carol - You are welcome. Were they served as a salad? I love the crunch.

Hélène - So for you hearts of palm are a staple not a pantry special. Do you have any recipes to share? How do you use them? I hope you'll try this pizza.

Ah, I love hearts of palm. This is the first thing I go for in a Brazilian salad bar. Great recipe for pizza!

I love the look and sound of this pizza.


Paz

The pizza sounds and looks delicious. Did you know Fresh Hearts of Palm from Costa Rica are being cultivated widely? Farmers can now harvest a single plant for over 20 years when done correctly. We package and distribute Fresh Hearts of Palm all over the US and one of our main objectives is to promote the product and give farmers in Costa Rica an alternative to Slash and Burn Agriculture. Even better, the Fresh Heart of Palm maintains it crunchy texture when baked or sautéed and because it is not pickled it takes on the flavors of your recipe. We have plenty of recipes using it at our web site OneEarthGourmet.com Nice job on the pizza it is a great use for a versatile product.

Thank you for sharing some of the environmental impact of heart of palm. The pizza looks great though.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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