Açai isn’t just a fruit caught up in a massive health and diet food craze. The heart of this tropical palm is also marvelously tasty. And though this dish may not reduce your weight, it will certainly help you enjoy life even more.
My sister Ana has been making açai palm heart flavored “pie” for years. Whenever I’m visiting Brazil, I make sure I always eat plenty. I write pie in quotes as this doesn’t have a crust in the sense that Americans mean when they think of “mom and apple pie.” Actually, Steven and I have been debating on the right term to use for the dish. He thinks that it’s sort of like a soufflé. I’m not sure. There’s definitely a dough, though it’s more airy and light than most; almost like a cake, a challah bread or perhaps a focaccia. Whatever you call it, the thing is good!
This recipe has been passed down to everyone in my family. On my last visit, I enjoyed my other sister, Tinha’s version. I loved it but Ana claims that hers is better. Thinha humbly agrees. Ana is an expert with this dish, but I don’t know. I’d love them to have a cook-off on my next visit with me the judge That way, I win whatever the outcome!
Like I wrote the other day, baking is sort of experimental for me. I tried to follow Ana’s recipe almost verbatim. But who ever really does that? I used soy milk instead of cow’s, for the simple reason that we had the former and not the later. Also the baking dishes that my sibs have are enormous compared to what I have at home. Since this made a lot of filling and dough, I ended up with a large 9 by 13 tray and a smaller loaf of the Brazilian açai palm heart pie at the end. Next time I’m going to try cutting the ingredients by half so it’s easier to manage.
This treat is a bit high in cholesterol compared to our usual home cooked dinners. I don’t mind once in a while. It turned out outstandingly!
Brazilian Açai Palm Heart Pie
2 cans (400g each) Brazilian açai palm heart, drained and cut into ¼ inch rounds
1 cup frozen garden peas
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives, halved
6 ripe plum tomatoes, skin and seed discarded, chopped
½ medium sized jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sauté garlic in olive oil for a minute or so in a heavy bottomed pan. Add jalapeño pepper and continue sautéing for another minute. Add tomatoes, palm hearts and cook on high heat with pan uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Filling will be ready when palm hearts begin to dissolve and most of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated. Remove from heat then add olives, salt and pepper, and frozen peas. Taste it and add a bit of salt if necessary. Let cool down to room temperature.
2 ½ cups milk
1 cup cooking oil (canola or walnut)
¾ cups flour (12 tbsp)
7 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Dash of salt
1 tbsp baking powder
Pre heat your oven to 350F.
Grease a large baking pan and dust with flour (It might take two). Set aside
Beat eggs in a blender for about 3-4 minutes at high speed. Add milk and oil then blend for another minute. Pulse flour into egg mixture, two table spoons at time, making sure it gets incorporated into the dough. Pulse in cheese and salt then, lastly, the baking powder. The finished dough is a little runny. I ended up with slightly more than a ¼ gallon.
Pour the dough into the prepared baking dish. Then scatter the filling on top of dough, making sure it is at least partially covered by the dough. If using more than one dish, divide accordingly and fill each dish in a one part dough one part filling ratio.
Bake for 35 to 45minutes until it becomes golden brown. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the pie is ready. Remove from oven and cool completely.
To serve, cut into large squares and place on a serving dish. It’s very good with a simple green salad in vinaigrette.