We are friends with an elderly French couple, both of whom are professional chefs. Maggy has often made a simple hearts of palm dish with her mustard vinaigrette. What are hearts of palm? They are the inner core of young palm trees, such as coconut trees. They have a mild, lightly sweet flavor, but can take on the qualities of whatever they are marinated in. I’ve only ever had them the way that Maggy prepares them, cut into rings and drenched in mustard vinaigrette. So when I was watching Mad Men the other day (catching up on the first four seasons to see what all the hype was about) and heard Don order a Hearts-of-Palm Salad, my ears perked up.
While I like the show well enough, the real fascination of Mad Men for me is its portrayal of the pre-Woodstock 1960s. How dressed up men and women were, what they drank, what they ate. In one episode, Joan is giving a dinner party for her husband’s boss and colleagues. She lays out an elaborate table and has to explain to her frazzled spouse proper protocol for seating (host/hostess at the head of the table). I didn’t learn how to set a proper table until I met my mother-in-law!
I keep seeing references to the Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, and it is taking all the will I can muster to not buy it for myself. One of the featured recipes is for the aforementioned Hearts-of-Palm Salad. I was considering Googling the recipe when I remembered one of the little treasures I inherited from my in-laws: Good Housekeeping’s Party Book, circa 1958.
Not only is it chock full of party wisdom, including proper table settings and seating arrangements, it also happened to have, on page 20, the recipe I was coveting! It’s not exactly the Sardi’s version from the show (you can find that here), but it’s a good “poor man’s” H-O-P Salad. Sorry Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook authors–you won’t be getting my money (this week, at least).
Here is the recipe. Normally, I improvise and put my own twist on recipes, but I wanted to stay true to the original. I did have to make one adjustment because I couldn’t find Italian-style French dressing.
- 3 large heads iceberg lettuce, in bite-size pieces
- 2 diced, peeled avocados
- 3 14-oz. cans hearts of palm, drained and cut into 1/4″ slices
- 1 cup bottled Italian-style French dressing (I used my own homemade white wine vinaigrette)
Toss together lettuce, avocados, hearts-of-palm, and dressing. Makes 15 servings.
I made this to accompany Easter dinner and it was a hit with everyone! If I were to put my own twist on it (besides using a vinaigrette in place of the rare dressing they suggest), I might add some olives or croutons, or even some fresh cherry or grape tomatoes. In the future, I think I’ll give the Sardi’s version a try. I love the savory scrumptiousness of capers!