I know I’m about four years late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Mad Men. I mean, I knew about the show, but hadn’t had the chance to watch it and enjoy not only the storylines (although Season 4 is rather dark) but also the clothing and the sets. And, since I took that Food and the Visual Arts class last fall, I’ve learned to pay close attention to the foods cooked, ordered or, in the case of Don Draper and his co-workers, drunk. My reflux prevents me from posting about my favorite cocktail, so instead I’m going to write about one of my favorite salad ingredients: hearts of palm.
Don seems to be a fan of the curious vegetable, ordering it at Sardi’s in Season 2, and Trudy Campbell serves a salad of them to Pete in Season 3. Literally cut from the hearts of palm trees, the vegetable came into vogue as post-war Americans became more affluent and more adventurous in their eating (think Polynesian/Chinese food).
Hearts of palm and I have a bit of a history. About 10 years ago, Sylvie and I went on a bit of a hearts of palm binge. (Side note: How is it possible I only started talking about Syl a month ago? Clearly we spend a great deal of our time together talking about food.) We had gone through all the hearts of palm my mom had purchased for Passover, but we wanted more. We scoured the shelves at the Big Y in the center of town, and even tracked down the manager. He had never heard of the vegetable, but assured us he would order a case. A few weeks later we got the call: our hearts of palm had arrived, an entire case of them. It turned out the manager ordered a case for the store, and an entire case just for us. We stood there for a second, and then nodded together, in that way that siblings are able to have entire discussions with each other without saying a word, said thank you, and went home with our bounty.
Our go-to application was usually a salad with chopped avocado, halved grape tomatoes and a vibrant vinaigrette. Since it’s February and tomatoes are a no-no in my kitchen, I’ve pulled up a recipe for a hearts of palm salad from the upcoming Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, which is coming out in March. (Turns out I’m not the only one out there with a food and drink fixation of the show. The cookbook is based on a blog.)
Now, this “Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad” is a pantry recipe for me. Granted, it’s kind of ridiculous I have pimentos on hand, and if you don’t, I would suggest opening a jar of roasted red peppers and adding them to the vinegar-onion mixture as you chop the rest of the dressing ingredients. In the course of making this salad I also discovered I have three separate jars of capers in the fridge, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a predilection for pickled things.
I minced the onions and added them to the vinegar before I chopped anything else so they’d have less of a bite by the time the salad was ready to be served. I’ve ignored the recipe’s instructions regarding the lettuce leaves and sprigs of watercress because I am far less likely to have those items reliably in the fridge. For those nervous about using canned hearts of palm, they can also be found in glass jars.
Quick tip for hard-boiling the eggs: I take a note from Alton Brown for this one, and cook my eggs in my plug-in kettle I keep on the counter (or kum-kum for those reading this in Israel). After the kettle boils and pops, let them rest in the pot for 10 minutes, and you’ll have perfectly boiled eggs.
Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad (from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook)
1 can hearts of palm
6 thin slices pimento
4 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ dill pickle
1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon finely chopped pimento
1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white
1 teaspoon salt
¼ olive oil
Place the finely chopped onion in a small bowl and add the vinegar.
Chop the rest of the ingredients and add them to the small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add the olive oil, Stir thoroughly. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using.
Slice the hearts of palm into ¼ inch round slices. Place in a serving bowl. Stir in two tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.