Mr. Peacock first tasted Ensalada de Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Salad, at a holiday buffet hosted by his friends, Gordon and Roger. Whatever they create in the kitchen is delicious and this colorful Mexican holiday dish was no exception. It didn’t hurt that they both trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris either.
Variations of this beautiful salad are served in different regions in Mexico. The exact origin isn’t known, but the salad always has the same unusual combination of ingredients: beets, pineapple, bananas, oranges and pomegranate seeds. This salad will please everyone—even those people who refuse to eat beets because they think they taste like dirt. Beets happen to be a favorite vegetable of Mr. Peacock.
Christmas Eve Salad can be garnished with crushed hard candies, roasted peanuts, and anise seeds. Mr. Peacock is allergic to peanuts, so I serve them on the side. I haven’t tried it with crushed candies, but I love the subtle crunch and flavor the anise seeds add to this luscious salad. The dressing can be creamy based, but I prefer a light vinaigrette. You can also serve the salad on a bed of greens.
CHRISTMAS EVE SALAD
You’ll want about 1.5 or 2 cups of each fruit/vegetable. This recipe isn't difficult, but it does take some time to prep the ingredients—it's worth it though.
4 clementines (in abundance right now)
1 small can of pineapple slices (you can also use fresh pineapple)
1 small jicama root
8 oz. can of beets—not pickled! (Mr. Peacock used 2 fresh beets, see note below*)
2 medium apples
1 tablespoon anise seed (plus extra for garnish)
¼ cup unsalted roasted peanuts (for garnish)
Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1) Peel and segment the clementines. You don’t have to remove the membrane, but I peel off any large pieces of white pith. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
2) Drain and cut the pineapple in chunks, add to the mixing bowl.
3) Peel the jicama and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices. My friend Gordon used a decorative cookie cutter to cut the jicama and beet slices into festive shapes. Mr.Peacock used a 2” flower shaped cutter, but it’s optional. You could just cut the jicama into small slices. Add to the mixing bowl.
4) Use a decorative cutter and cut the beets. If you want to save the “scraps” from the beets and jicama, you can toss them into a tossed salad for later. If you’re using fresh, steamed beets add them to the mixing bowl. If you’re using canned beets add them just before serving. If you don't use a cookie cutter, cut the beets in half.
5) Peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut into slices and add to the bowl.
6) Peel and slice the bananas into ½ inch slices. Add to the mixing bowl.
Mr. Peacock forgot to include the pineapple in this photo, but you get the idea on how to cut the fruits and veggies.
7) Cut and seed the pomegranate, removing all traces of membrane. Place the seeds in a dish and set aside.
8) Pour the dressing over the fruit/vegetable mixture. Mr. Peacock likes a salad dressed lightly and only used about ½ cup of dressing—use the amount of dressing you prefer. Carefully mix everything together. Sprinkle in the pomegranate seeds and 1 tablespoon of anise seeds.
9) Chill in the refrigerator until you serve it. It is best eaten the same day.
10) Mr. Peacock serves the salad in large clear glass dish to show off the beautiful colors of this holiday treat. You could use a trifle bowl or any clear glass bowl. Allow everyone to garnish their own salad with extra anise seeds and the peanuts.
If you use canned red beets (not pickled), rinse them with cool water and pat them dry with paper towels. Add them just before serving, because the color can “bleed” a bit.
If you use fresh beets, you will need 2 medium sized beets. Peel and slice them about ¼ inch thick. Steam them until tender and let cool. They shouldn’t bleed either, like the canned beets.
Mr. Peacock used Chioggia beets, because he likes the red and white "candy" stripes of this Italian heirloom variety. After they were steamed, the color became more pink in tone, but still looked festive in the salad.
Lime Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes about 1 cup of dressing.
½ cup canola oil (or any light vegetable oil)
3 limes juiced (almost ½ cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
Pour all ingredients into a lidded jar. Shake until blended well. Store in the refrigerator.
Christmas Eve Salad is a refreshing explosion of color, textures and flavors. I like serving it as a side dish with a rich or salty main course, like a ham. It’s a welcoming healthy treat after nibbling on holiday cookies and sweets. It would also be a great addition to a New Year's buffet.