This Brazilian-style palmitos salad is creamy and rich but still healthy and light. (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Lighter Latin recipe: Brazilian-style palmitos salad

If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse—that carnival of grilled meats that begins with the mother of all salad bars—then you’ve likely tasted classic hearts of palm salad, known as “ensalada de palmitos.” Made with the tender core of a baby palm tree trunk, the dish is a staple at Brazilian churrasquerias, its main ingredient a favorite vegetable throughout much of Latin America. (In Mexico, palmitos are often simmered in broth with garlic and onions, then pureed into a velvety soup. And in Brazil, they also make for a popular pizza topping.)

Mild and slightly sweet, palmitos are available fresh but most commonly found canned in a light brine. (They’re usually near the jarred artichokes at the grocery.) Palmitos are versatile and can be sautéed or stir fried, though most often they’re just tossed into regular salads. Today’s recipe does a little more. The palmitos are the star attraction in this light and refreshing dish. Classically paired with tomatoes and avocado, the salad’s richness is amped up with a creamy dressing (rather than the usual oil and vinegar) made with a healthy blend of non-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise spiked with hints of lime and honey. A great side salad, the dish stands on its own as a main course and makes for perfect Meatless Monday fare.

Brazilian-style palmitos salad

1 cup mixture of yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm, drained and sliced into 1/2 inch thick discs
1 Hass avocado, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch match sticks
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk the lime zest and lime juice with the yogurt, mayonnaise, honey and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the shallot, hearts of palm, avocado, pepper and chopped cilantro. Pour the dressing over the salad, gently toss and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away. Makes 4 servings.

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