While on a recent trip to South America, I was served an incredible variety of fresh produce assembled into platters of lightly dressed salads. As a vegetarian, my hosts were concerned I wasn't getting enough food; "Look at these salads I'm making!" I said every day at lunch. I was so into these Chilean small salads, I've been making a composed version of the fare offered to me almost every evening since I've returned. Think of this as a vegetarian twist on the much–adored Salad Nicoise.
This recipe is hardly a recipe at all, more of a suggestion to build on with produce and hearty items you like or have around. The flavors that anchor this dish to Chile are the heart of palm, fresh corn (which I forgot to include in the above photograph), tomatoes and watercress. Some iteration of these ingredients were served alongside almost every meal I ate during the week I spent exploring the area surrounding Santiago.
(At left: a version of this type of salad I had at the Terra Noble Winery, in the Casablanca Valley of Chile, at right: our incredibly fresh spread of salads)
Because late March is the Southern hemisphere's late summer, the corn and tomatoes were just bursting with flavor. We're a little early for these things here in North America, but sometimes you've got to just bust through a seasonal rut and purchase a few early items (probably shipped from Chile!). As my friend and colleague Emma, the recipe editor from the Kitchn, once said, "That's why God invented the freezer section." Amen Sister. This salad marries different textures and contrasting flavors in an unexpected fashion. It would be a perfect main dish salad for any early summer gathering and will dazzle your palatte with color and freshness.
Hearts of Palm, Corn, Tomatoes & Watercress Salad
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn into large pieces
1 bunch watercress, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 cups sliced hearts of palm
1 1/2 cups fresh corn
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 cups roasted potatoes (I used a Russet but small, red potatoes would be more like what they served in Chile)
1 cup green olives
olive oil and lemon to taste
salt and pepper to taste
To assemble the salad, prep all the ingredients and plate keeping everything separate. Dress with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
• Related: The Classic Caprese Salad
(Information for this post was gathered during a press trip to Chile and Argentina sponsored by Winebow. All views and opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author.)
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)