I didn’t know about this salad when I was growing up. It was until 26 years ago, when a young couple invited us for dinner on Christmas Eve, that I first heard of it. Christmas Salad was the first dish to be served on the table, and I of course asked about it right away. How do you make it? Does it have a name?
Can you write down the recipe for me? But now I realize that you don’t actually need a well structured recipe to make this salad. Eating fruits and veggies isn’t rocket science, right? It’s even easier if the fruits are in season when their flavor and nutrients are at their prime. So, play around with the ingredients and enjoy your own version of Ensalada Navideña and make it a traditional part of your Christmas Menu, as many do in Mexico.
Traditional Christmas Salad (or, as we call it, “Ensalada Nochebuena” or “Ensalada Navideña”) is made with seasonal fruits from this time of the year. Some of the most common ingredients are beets, lettuce, orange slices, sweet lime, pomegranates, jicama, peanuts, sugar cane and apples, but every region has a different recipe based on what they have available, so you will find that some recipes call for ingredients such as plantains, pecans, pineapple, papaya, guavas and even shredded coconut. The end result is a vibrant, colorful and tasty salad.
INGREDIENTS FOR 6 SERVINGS:
- 6 large romaine lettuce leaves, washed
- 1 medium size beet, cooked and sliced
- 1/2 cup of beets cooking water
- 1 ripe plantain but still firm, diced
- 1 cup of jicama (peeled and sliced)
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 large orange, peeled and sectioned
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Sugar to taste
* You can use canned beets, if fresh beets are not available.
**Traditionally the salad used to be presented with the fruit sliced, but nowadays there are many preparations. You can either slice the fruits or dice them. Or as I did, make a mix of diced and sliced ingredients.
*** This is just a sample of the traditional salad using the basic ingredients, but the possibilities are endless using some of the other ingredients mentioned above. Use your creativity to enhance this salad.
1. If you are using fresh beets, do not peel them before cooking. Cook in a small amount of water until tender about 15-18 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size and how fresh the beets are. After cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. When beets are slightly cooled, remove skin by gently peeling it using a paper towel. You will see that the skin comes off really easy.
2. For the first layer, arrange in a large plate 3 large romaine lettuce leaves. Thinly slice the other 3 leaves and reserve.
3. Arrange the sliced (or diced) beets, plantain, jicama and apples. Top with orange wedges, finely sliced lettuce and roasted peanuts.
4. For the dressing mix the reserved 1/2 cup of the beet cooking water, orange juice with sugar to taste, mix an drizzle over salad. Serve immediately.
The cooks creativity with this salad is endless, like in this presentation above where all the ingredients (minus the orange) are diced, and the dressing consist of the beets’ cooking water, sugar and mexican cream. You can use sour cream or also heavy cream. If you prefer this chopped version, don't use the orange or orange juice. Whatever way you try it, this salad will be a festive addition to your Christmas Party. I love it both in Christmas time and during the rest of the year!