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Mushroom “Rice-otto” with Melissa’s Hearts of Palm Rice

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Mushroom “Rice-otto”
As I have recently relocated to Florida, I am quickly learning about local ingredients from both land and sea. After decades in California, I was very spoiled with the abundance of oysters, Dungeness crab, salmon and so many others. But I am not feeling homesick about food here. The shrimp and oysters are different, as are the fish and crab, but they are every bit as good – simply different.

In terms of produce, I am still learning, but one of my first lessons was identifying the Florida State tree, Sabal Palmetto, a type of palm tree.

In addition to being a gorgeous tree for landscaping, the Sabal Palmetto or Palmetto Palm also yields one of my favorite salad ingredients: hearts of palm. The hearts or core of the palm tree are literally harvested from the base or heart of the tree. Hearts of palm are then cut into stalks that have a flavor and texture that is sometimes compared to asparagus and/or artichoke. They are commonly water-packed in jars.

The downside of this crunchy delicacy is that harvesting the heart or core of a palm tree means that the entire tree dies. As you can imagine, conservation groups have made sure that it is no longer legal to harvest hearts of palm from our state tree.

The good news is that there are other palm trees, around the world, in fact, that do have a delicious core. Better yet, cultivation progress has found a way to produce multiple “cores” per palm tree so that the trees will not die after harvesting. There is a lot of reading to be found on the subject if you care to Google it.

But back to the matter at hand, how does one indulge in this interesting vegetable? For decades, it has been enjoyed mostly as a key ingredient in a fairly simple salad with a vinaigrette, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

With the increased interest in lowering carbohydrate intake, many creative food scientists have developed a variety of hearts of palm products that focus on this low carb aspect (including Melissa’s Hearts of Palm Pasta) while boasting admirable amounts of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Today, I am writing about Melissa’s Riced Hearts of Palm, which is ethically sourced from trees in Ecuador and contains no additives or preservatives. Best of all, it is ready to eat. I was so impressed with it that I decided to do a riff on risotto, and it turned out pretty well. This recipe is low in carbs, gluten-free and can be vegan if you omit the cheese. It will still be delicious without cheese, I promise.

Mushroom “Rice-otto”
Yield: 3 cups or 4 servings
Image of ingredients
1 tablespoon olive, canola, or grapeseed oil
1 cup fresh Melissa’s mushrooms (I used chanterelles) chopped in approx. ½ to ¾ inch pieces.
1 tablespoon chopped Melissa’s shallot
1 (9 oz) package Melissa’s Riced Hearts of Palm
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or olive oil for vegan version)
2 tablespoons broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan (omit for vegan version)
Ground black pepper
Garnish: Italian parsley chiffonade

Image of sauteed mushrooms and shallots
Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until mushrooms have softened and are just starting to brown. Salt lightly. Add shallot, stir well, and cook for a minute longer.
Image of sauteed mushrooms with riced hearts of palm
Add Riced Hearts of Palm and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir and simmer for a minute or until butter is melted and rice is hot. Add broth and heat for a minute or until broth boils. Add cheese and pepper and stir well. Remove from heat. Garnish and serve.
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