Heart of Palm Salad

Next Sunday, the Sunday before Easter is known in the Christian world as Palm Sunday. It marks the return of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem exactly one week before his resurrection, and Christians use Palm Sunday to begin the holiest week of their year, which culminates on Easter Sunday.

The four gospels in the Bible describe how Christ and his disciples returned to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Passover. According to the Bible, Christ entered the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey, therefore fulfilling a prophecy about the Messiah's arrival. Crowds of people lined the path he rode, laying down their cloaks in the street in front of him. They also placed palm branches before him-a gesture reserved for only the most honored. They sang praises to Christ, including in those praises "Hosannah," which means "save us now."

From at least the fourth century A.D., faithful Christians all over the world have celebrated Palm Sunday in different ways. Many churches pass out to congregation members cut palm leaves or other seasonal branches. Before palm leaves were easily imported, some of the more temperate countries used branches of yew, box, hazel, willow and even daffodils, which are nicknamed Lent Lilies. Other churches participate in a procession, during which bearers carry palm branches congregation members hold a pageant to reenact Christ's trial and crucifixion. Still other denominations hold a special sermon and sing the appropriate hymns to usher in the start of the Holy Week.

No matter where or how Palm Sunday is being celebrated, each congregation has maintained unique traditions in order to commemorate the special day. In Spain, people cut palm leaves and dry them. Then they are woven into intricate shapes including crosses to use for decoration. In Latvia, the day is known as Pussy Willow Sunday and pussy willow branches, symbolizing rebirth, are handed out to faithful members. In the Netherlands, there are often large processions of faithful members carrying oil lamps. Polish Christians hold artificial palm competitions. In England, some churches make pax cakes, which are symbolic of good will, and these are given to the members as they leave the Sunday service.

In Jerusalem itself, massive crowds attend Palm Sunday celebrations. Starting from the Mount of Olives, participants walk down to the city waiving palm branches, while others re-create the crowd that greeted Christ as he entered Jerusalem.

HEARTS OF PALM SALAD

I know it’s a different type of palm but give me a little poetic license here! So what is a heart of palm? Strangely, it is what it says it is which is the heart of cabbage palm tree— its edible core that looks not unlike a bamboo shoot. They come canned since fresh is nearly impossible to find, and since they’re soft and perfectly straight, it’s hard not to feel like a pro when chopping them up.

The flavor of hearts of palm is much like an artichoke. In fact, if you can’t find or don’t want to pay for the sometimes pricey hearts of palm, a marinated artichoke makes a good substitute. Still, I prefer the palm’s heart because it’s not as pungent. It’s got the tang without the overkill, and the texture is nice and soft with no worries about chewiness that the marinated artichoke sometimes troubles me with.

Ingredients

Dressing
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon salad herbs

Salad

1 garlic clove, halved
1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained, chilled
12 cups mixed salad greens
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

For the dressing, combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and salad herbs in a bowl; set aside.

For the salad, rub the inside of a wooden salad bowl with the garlic pieces; discard the garlic. Slice the hearts of palm into 1-inch pieces. Toss the hearts of palm, salad greens and tomatoes in the salad bowl. Sprinkle with the cheese. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again. Grind the pepper over the top.

The recipe calls for “salad herbs,” and I’m not sure if this was a vague suggestion to use whatever herbs you feel go with a salad or if there were a specific set of herbs designated for salads or maybe even a product, like jarred fines herbes. A quick Internet search provided no conclusive evidence, so I used fresh dill, which tasted good. So I guess it’s up to you.

AND FINALLY…Little Johnny had the flu and wasn't able to attend the Palm Sunday church service with his family.

When they returned home from the service, they were carrying palm branches. "What are those?" Little Johnny asked his mother.

"People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his mother explained.

"Well, doesn't that just figure," grumbled Little Johnny. "The one Sunday I can't go to church, and Jesus shows up!