Stuffed heart of palm cylinder with pork belly, chick peas, arugula and whipped goat cheese with rendered pork belly essence.
First of all... hearts of palm. Love. Many individuals are not familiar with the tubular root vegetables; however, not only do they have a distinct and luxurious flavor, they also can be plated in a whimsical manner, due largely in part to their size/shape/aesthetic. Hearts of palm are essentially palm tree core/buds and are harvested from only certain types of palm trees. They are generally canned in order to soften the cores and make more palatable. The "inner core" of the cylinder is very soft and tender. I will often remove the delicate inner core (carefully!) which allows the outer cylinder to remain in tact (still very fragile).
A brilliant stuffing for the heart of palm? First, cut a small slab of pork belly into small slices and place on a medium-warm sauté pan. Allow the fat to render and pieces to crisp. Since they are cut small, they will cook quickly. Once crispy, remove the pork belly pieces with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel in order to "dry" and remain crisp. Reserve the rendered fat (aka, "gold").
In a separate sauté pan, add a touch of almond oil, as well as 1 tsp of the rendered pork belly fat. Add 1 cup of cooked chick peas and season with smoked sea salt, smokey paprika and pepper. Sprinkle with the juice of 1/2 lemon. Since the chick peas are already cooked, the purpose of the saute is to crispy the chick peas slightly, as well as absorb the pork belly fat/almond oil. Add a handful of arugula and remove from the heat (the arugula will cook and wilt from the carry-over heat).
In a small bowl, mix the crispy pork belly pieces with the sautéed chick pea mixture, then carefully stuff into the hollow heart of palm cylinder (I use a small spoon).
A perfect compliment to the stuffed heart of palm? Place 6 ounces of goat cheese in a small bowl and whisk energetically. Add a few teaspoons of the rendered pork belly fat. This will allow the goat cheese to become easier to work with (the consistency will become slightly more viscous), as well as absorb a hint of the pork belly essence. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then place in a pastry bag.
When plating, I made a small trail of crispy pork belly pieces on a white plate, then set the stuffed heart of palm cylinder atop the trail (garnished with fresh arugula). To the side of the heart of palm, I used the piping bag to make a thin trail of the goat cheese.
A few other dishes to compliment the appetizer? Poached lobster pieces/roasted calamari salad with frisée and blood orange vinaigrette. The bitterness of the frisée is balanced with the sweet lobster and citrus from the blood orange. Fantastic flavor profile and a very simple, yet elegant dish.
Red snapper has always been a favorite of mine to cook, due to its vibrant red color, as well as firm and durable texture. I will often sauté in walnut oil, in order to enhance the "nutty" flavor profile of the fish. Pair red snapper with roasted root vegetables (artichoke hearts, parsnips, rutabaga, etc.). A touch of fresh basil is the prefect fresh herb to brighten the seafood dish.
Last, but certainly not least, a roasted golden beet salad with kalamata olives, pickled mango/papaya and Greek yogurt.
Experiment, create, inspire, work with passion and love life.
"In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine" - Ralph Waldo Emerson