By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
You are lucky if you make a date with a palm tree this summer, especially if it is a breakfast, lunch or dinner date. Often thought of as a lush way to shade yourself in a tropical locale, or possibly a lovely part of your own landscape it you live in a warm climate, everyone, fortunately, can draw comfort from parts of palms for delicious meals from appetizers to desserts.
Just ask the experts at the award-winning and gorgeous Sherman Library & Gardens in the tony beach town of Corona del Mar, Calif. They had a gourmet dinner and expert talk in the garden centered around the history, function and foods of the palm. Their menu is an inspiration to anyone who had never thought before of entertaining with a theme spotlighting the gifts of palms, like hearts of palm, coconuts and dates.
If you are used to just seeing these tasty treats in their final forms in a supermarket, you might not immediately draw the primal connections, like that hearts of palm are the edible buds of a palm tree and dates come from clusters in tall palm trees.
Palms are one of the signature collections of the Sherman Library & Gardens, where they have more than 190 species in their 2-acre space. The menu, created by Pascal Olhats, executive chef at the on-site Cafe Jardin, could serve as a springboard to your own special dishes at home.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for preparing homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it! Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
- Appetizers alone like these are a bounty: fried heart of palm with ginger aioli; salami rolls with pickled pacaya palm; and stuffed dates with Roquefort cheese.
- Dinner: mushroom and date ceviche with taro chips; fresh coconut soup; curry lemongrass steamed shrimp and chicken; and seared ahi tuna with heart of palm Provencal.
- Dessert: Merveilleux cake with dates and coconut.
When these ingredients are strolled by separately in varying supermarket aisles, such as dried dates, shredded coconut or coconut milk and jars or cans of hearts of palm, it certainly doesn't bring worlds of possibility together, a la a master chef's creative combinations like these.
If Olhats' aforementioned ideas for lunch or dinner spark an even further appetite, like they did in me, breakfast shouldn't be forgotten. Following are a few easy flavor enhancers I've enjoyed. All ingredients are to taste:
- Swell Smoothie: In a strong blender container, add coconut milk, stevia, banana and pineapple chunks, macadamia nuts, small pieces of white chocolate and ice. Blend until smooth.
- Awesome Oatmeal: To cooked oatmeal with coconut milk, stir in stevia, chopped dates and pieces of fresh or dried mango. Reheat until hot.
- Heartfelt Hearts of Palm: Serve banana pancakes with a side of grilled hearts of palm that you've first marinated in a mixture of maple syrup and freshly ground black pepper. After grilling, top hearts with finely diced red bell pepper and drizzle with more of the maple syrup mixture.
Have you already been responsible for more birthday cakes this year than you would care to count? If so, a reminder to try Jamie Sherman's innovative and happiness-inspiring cookbook might be in order. If you want to add variety and fun to your repertoire, Sherman's The Poke Cake Cookbook: 75 Delicious Cake and Filling Combinations
should top your wish list. The pretty and tasty results are bigger than the time commitment. By poking holes in cakes and adding an additional flavor, every cut slice shows off the added color treat. Many of the cakes start from mixes. Easy additional ingredients are then used to fill the poked indentations, like store-bought instant vanilla pudding that sets in the holes made by the end of a wooden spoon in a Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake as it chills in the refrigerator. Lisa Messinger
at Creators Syndicate
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.