Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad)

ensalada de noche buena christmas eve salad

A few days ago, I admitted that I hate beets. Now, you’d think I’d announced I hate sunshine or bluebonnets the way people reacted. “How did this happen?” said one. “I don’t understand,” said another.

Finally, however, a few stood with me in solidarity. And we all agreed that beets taste like dirt.

But then I kept running into a recipe that appealed to me: ensalada de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve salad. It’s a colorful mix of oranges, jicama, apples, pomegranate seeds, peanuts and yes, beets.

As the name implies, this salad is traditionally served on Christmas Eve in Mexico and the Southwest. I’d never heard of it, but I read about it in Texas Highways magazine and learned that it’s also quite popular in West Texas along the Texas-Mexico border.



I began to research this salad and found that no two recipes are alike. I love this in a dish as it means that people will be very opinionated about it and yet there’s no right or wrong way to create it. For instance, I learned that some people add bananas and pineapple to their salad, which makes it feel more tropical. Others add crushed peppermint candy to their salad, playing up the holiday aspect of the dish. There were countless other variations that I saw but the one thing that they all had in common was that they all called for, yes, beets.

Well then. It soon became clear to me that if I wanted to eat ensalada de Noche Buena I’d have to get over my aversion. So I went to the farmers market and bought a beet. Assuming bigger is better, I bought one that was the size of a bowling ball and then spent the rest of the day roasting the darn thing. (Please note, if you’ve never cooked beets before, smaller is definitely better.)

Hours later when the beet was finally cooked, I tossed it with sliced oranges, jicama, apples, peanuts, cilantro, pomegranate seeds and lettuce and then dressed it with a tangy mix of mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice and chipotle chiles. With an all-star roster of ingredients like that, how could it not be great? Crunchy, tangy, sweet and fiery—ensalada de Noche Buena is indeed a stupendous dish.

ensalada de noche buena christmas eve salad

So if you think you don’t like beets, consider this a wonderful introduction to their charms. And if you’re already a fan, you should definitely add this dish to your repertoire. And yes, I am now a fan of beets—consider me a changed woman.

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad)
For the salad:
1 pound beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
2 pounds navel oranges, peeled and diced
1 pound jicama, peeled and diced
1/2 pound apples, cored and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Seeds from 1 pomegrante
6 cups torn Romaine lettuce leaves

For the dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 canned chipotle chile, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Clean the beets and remove any leafy stems, reserving for another use. Place the beets on a sheet of foil and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and then wrap the beets in the foil. Place foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork into the beets. Once cool, rub the beets with a paper towel to remove the skin. Slice the beets into half-moon shapes and place the sliced beets into a large bowl.

Add to the beet bowl the diced oranges, jicama, apples, cilantro, peanuts, pomegranate seeds and Romaine lettuce. Toss until well combined.

To make the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, orange juice and chipotle chile. Taste and add salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Yield: 8 servings

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54 comments:

the country cook said...

Glad you came over to the dark side. :-) Looks like a fun salad! - www.delightfulcountrycookin.com

DessertForTwo said...

Ok, I agree-beets taste like dirt. But in a totally good, crave-able way. When I eat a beet, I feel my body saying 'thank you thank you thank you!'

I can understand not liking the blood red beets. But have you tried them pickled? What about gorgeous Chioggia beets? I grew them last year and I've never tasted a better beet. Almost had a radish-like flavor. Mmm!

Are you going to Food Blog South? If so, I can't WAIT to meet you! Our Texan accents will be drowned in a crowd of Alabama accents, but we'll still have fun!! :)

Kailee said...

Hmmm...looks very pretty! But, beets. Beets are about the ONLY vegetable I don't like, much to the disappointment of my Australian husband who grew up eating beets on (gulp) hamburgers!

Maybe I'll give them another shot. Maybe!

Katie said...

I am not a beet fan, but next time you're in Austin, you HAVE to try the beet fries at East Side King (inside Liberty bar.) They are to die for!

Tommy said...

I am glad you overcame your aversion to beets. I think they are an outstanding vegetable.I tend to stay away from "mongo" sized beets because they take way to long to roast.

Salad sounds awesome. I would attempt it using candy cane beets, really giving it a Holiday connotation, uh ?

Melanie said...

I keep hearing that beets are wonderful when roasted. I've tried them pickled (many times), and I really don't like them that way! You are just one more person saying I must try them roasted... looks like I'll be heading over to the beet side soon!

Revdbeth said...

So will you be fixing this on Christmas Eve in Houston?

Bliss Doubt said...

Lately I've been admitting I don't like beets too. Maybe I used to like them, I dunno. I don't remember not liking them in the past. Now they taste like ammonia to me, but I'll eat them in a salad if someone brings it to a potluck or whatever, and oranges do help. Crushed peppermint candy with beets? Sounds like a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

I hate sunshine and resent the implication that that's wrong. I do, however, like bluebonnets, and I realize they need sunshine. So I grudgingly accept sunshine.

shawncita said...

I got a recipe like this from a friend from Mexico City - These days, I make it so regularly that I no longer need the little recipe card, but love stumbling across it: "Ensalada de Orly" with a little smiley face.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

The Country Cook--It is fun!

DessertForTwo--Sadly, I can't go to Food Blog South. Have fun there! And I'm sure I'll get to meet you at some other gathering.

Kallee--The nice thing about this dish is that there's so much other good stuff you hardly notice the beets.

Katie--I'm on it! Yum!

Tommy--Yep, that's what I learned! I was wondering why everyone was grabbing the golf-ball-sized beets. Now I know! And I'll have to look for candy cane beets. They would be perfect for this!

Melanie--The roasting kind of mellows them out a bit, I think.

RevdBeth--Sure!

Bliss Doubt--I agree!

Anon--Ha!

Shawncita--I love recipe cards!

Amy said...

I, too, am of the "beets are gross" group...but if YOU can get over your aversion...I guess I can too.

Despite the beets, this salad looks absolutely DELICIOUS.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

The salad is lovely (and yes, I'm a beet eater), but it's the dressing that really appeals to me. I don't think I've ever combined beets with chipotles, but I'm definitely going to try it.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amy--Thanks! And with all that other good stuff, even if you don't like the beets you'll still be happy.

Lydia--It's a good combination--it's not traditional for the salad but I could eat chipotles with just about anything!

SeattleDee said...

I only eat beets voluntarily in Beet and Cabbage Borscht, otherwise just pushing them around my plate. Now it's a challenge to try them using your recipe... and try to be open minded. The salad looks SO festive.

Lau@CorridorKitchen said...

I agree that beetroot does indeed taste like dirt. I usually buy it tinned, even for salads, for that very reason.

HZ in DFW said...

My family has been adjusting our Christmas traditions for the past couple of years (as a result of ailing loved ones), so this might be the year to add a salad to the unbroken tradition of tamales and champagne on Christmas Eve. And this certainly seems like a salad that could be an appropriate foil for tamales...without the crushed peppermint, though. (p.s. I'm partial to my mom's pickled beets hot off the stove)

Hannah @ Bake Five! said...

that look so, so good. my hunger has crept in. :(

Anna said...

Lisa, beets are best cooked in the oven; they can also be boiled or steamed. I ended up using the 'Baked Potatoes' button of the microwave and it works just fine. I either slice them or grate them and make a salad with a little sugary vinaigrette or orange vinaigrette. In the winter I mix it with finely grated horseradish, works wonders on a stuffy nose. I also saw a nice looking orange beet salad on Foodgawker the other day.

CortneyTree said...

I was on the fence about beets for years until I tried Rachel Ray's (and I never like her stuff) Red Cabbage and Beet salad (or is it slaw?), which has a tangy vinagrette base, with currants and walnuts tossed in for good measure. I converted then, and since, I find roasted beets and goat cheese tossed in a little olive oil my idea of heaven.

Alicia said...

So nice to find you. We are texans moving to BK in just three weeks. So I'm sure I'll be enjoying your site more often. Yay for loving Texas and living in NYC!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Seattle Dee--Now what's funny is that I've always liked borscht.

Lau@CorridorKitchen--Good thinking.

HZ--It would be wonderful with tamales!

Hannah--Just doing my job!

Anna--They are indeed incredibly healthy. And thanks for the microwave tip!

CortneyTree--I'll have to try that--I'm always a big fan of tangy!

Alicia--Welcome to NYC!

Kristen said...

I love ensalada de Noche Buena, and enjoyed your notes on it. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary; it gave me a lot of mental freedom to experiment with my version of the dish.

Personally I adore beets; from their lurid color, to the sweet flavor and closing with great nutritional qualities. There is just so much to love with beets! I'm glad you overcame your revulsion of beets to try them again.

Now I'm thinking about all of the other beet salads I love; I want to go home and cook. And you've given me sudden inspiration. I was wondering what to make for a salad for Christmas dinner, I'm thinking roasted beets, chevre, thyme and a red wine vinaigrette will be just the ticket. Easy and a nice compliment to the smoked rib roast I plan to serve.

Thanks again!

Stacey Ballis said...

I thought I hated beets till my boyfriend bought a bunch of baby beets at the farmers market, roasted them with just olive oil, salt and pepper, and served them to me with a sprinkle of orange zest. I now love baby beets, especially the golden and chioggas, which have a much subtler flavor. The dark ones I love less, and the big ones still taste like dirt to me. Also? Still not in for canned, pickled, or borscht.

DianaBol said...

Come over to the dark side, we have cookies.
Beets rock, great blog.

Celeste said...

Boiled beets do indeed taste like dirt, but oven roasted and pickled, they're lovely. If you want I'll share my favorite recipe, from MIL's WWII "Victory Garden" canning book.

Heather @ chiknpastry said...

the reaction you got to disliking beets is the same reaction i've gotten to disliking brussels sprouts (and yes, I have tried them with cheese and bacon and i still dislike them!). i do love beets though, and i used to think they tasted like dirt, too. the salad looks great and might be perfect for the beets in the fridge right now!

Janus said...

I wouldn't say that I don't like beets -- it's more like they don't like me. I have no idea why, but if I try to eat beets, the result is a rather sudden and nasty case of nausea. My parents stopped making me eat them after I failed to make it to the bathroom one time too many.

Interesting recipe, but I don't think I'll be trying it.

katie@cozydelicious said...

That dressing looks awesome. I bet it would be great on other salads and as a dip too. Yum!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kristen--That's what I love about ensalada de Noche Buena--anything goes! And that roasted beets with chevre sounds divine.

Stacey--I'll have to try the golden beets.

DianaBol--If the dark side has cookies, I'm in!

Celeste--Yes, please!

Heather--Brussels sprouts can be contentious, too. I completely understand.

Janus--Now that's a problem!

Katie--You bet that dressing would be excellent with a host of other things!

First Friday said...

This is one of my favorites. We served a version for our Fredericksburg Food Ministry's Fiesta de la Posada earlier this month. Homemade tamales with chili verde, pueblo-style posole with red chili sauce accompanied it. 150 HAPPY people ate every bite of the salad. Beets rule, even in the Texas Hill Country.

Lindie said...

I really like beets if they are roasted or pickled. My new favorite is golden beets. I think I will try them in this recipe. Am going to daughters for Christmas and might take this!

lisa is cooking said...

I'm thrilled to learn about this salad and even more thrilled that you area now a beet convert! I love the things. (Fried beet chips and beet latkes are good converters too.) Can't wait to try this salad.

Teresa said...

I have two recipes I use for beets, then only canned beets. The first is one I came up with in desperation: drain beets and chop them up. Mix with Ranch dressing and serve as you would a salad.

The next one I grew up with: Mix canned beets w/juice, equal parts vinegar and sugar. Boil til sugar melts. Serve COLD.

I've never tried fresh beets. I really don't want to walk around for days with red hands.

And I agree, straight out of the can, they taste like dirt and/or pesticide.

Deborah said...

I like everything in this salad except the beets. Beets taste like dirt. I've had them roasted and covered with goat cheese and vinaigrette as a salad at a restaurant. What a waste of good goat cheese, I thought. I've had them canned from salad bars - I don't understand how ANYBODY eats that foul substance. I love ya Lisa but I don't understand how you could go to the dark side!

Anne Stesney said...

I can't believe I never thought to mix uber-sweet beets with anything spicy. Brilliant.

People assume that if you love food and cooking, you love all food. No sirree. I can't stand anchovies. Event the "good" kind. Yuck.

Valerie Howes said...

I hated beets until I was about 28. Glad that changed. This salad looks amazing.

Janus said...

I wouldn't call it a problem, Lisa . . . more a realization that it's not a good idea for me to try to eat beets.

Have a Merry Christmas!

LimeCake said...

Roasted beets are one of the best things in the world! They stain like a mofo, but they're delicious! This salad looks so festive! Happy holidays!

PerennialPlate said...

Thank you for this post. My girlfriend hates beets and Im always trying to convince her otherwise.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I grew up hating beets - and I'm not a picky eater. But a few years ago, roasting beets changed all that. This salad sounds superb. And it's so pretty.

Anonymous said...

What do you think about making it a couple hours early? Like maybe tossing everything but the lettuce with the dressing, and adding the lettuce right before serving? Would that work? Would it still be attractive?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

First Friday--Now that's a feast!

Lindie--I have to try golden beets next!

Lisa is Cooking--I could definitely go for some beet latkes!

Teresa--Ha! Your hands will only be red for a little while!

Deborah--Let's just say I'm an open-opportunity eater!

Anne--There's a good kind of anchovy?

Valerie--Thank you! It's very colorful!

Janus--Merry Christmas to you, too!

LimeCake--It's very festive!

PerennialPlate--There's so much going on with this salad she might not even know they're there!

Tasty Eats at Home--I think roasting them mellows the flavor a bit.

Anon--I think that would work out very well.

Shelley said...

About to head back to Texas, but wanted to go off-topic to alert people that in today’s HuffPo, Al Franken has an alarming article on how the FCC is now making rulings that threaten net neutrality for getting sites like this one on mobile broadband devices. The FCC is also not banning the “paid prioritization” that could let corporate blogs buy the fast lane, putting our sites in the slow.

The outcry from independent websites was crucial a few days ago in improving the FCC ruling. But we need to stay alert and inform each other as new threats come up. We need a community of Paul Revere web bloggers.

Catherine said...

This salad looks wonderful, and I'm excited to hear about its traditional history in Mexico and the Southwest, including along the Texas border.

I'm from Texas too, and have lived in NYC, Chicago, and now Seattle, but I always recall so many flavors and foods. I've learned to seek out taco trucks and Mex-Mex places, because generally there's no point in eating Tex-Mex in other regions.

Thanks for bringing out the beauty in food so wonderfully in your blog. You're doing a swell job.

Anonymous said...

The salad was a great success this evening -everyone loved it

Nishta said...

so glad you're on the beet bandwagon! made this for Christmas Eve--with some sweet little beets I acquired at the Houston Farmers Market a few days before. thank you for sharing, it was delicious.

Celeste said...

Okay, I made the salad. 3 hours of chopping (okay, I'm slow...) and I love the roast beets! So easy! I used a navel orange called cara cara which is a little pinker, like a grapefruit. The only suggestion I have is that the ingredients should be kept separate and the salad should be plated with the dressing drizzled over it. I tossed everything but the lettuce and it was a big PINK mess, unlike the beautiful picture in your blog. ;-) Still, it was a great alternative to the tired old ambrosia.

Jumper said...

Looks great! Of course, I already like beets okay. They don't taste like dirt to me. Black eyed peas do, but somehow I love them.

My family has taken to eating beet greens, cooked like spinach. Now THAT'S not good. Nor do I like them raw; ugh. I did sample some daikon radish greens. They are quite tasty raw in a salad.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

So happy to hear you changed your mind about beets. I go back and forth with them, sometimes they taste 'off' to me and other times I absolutely crave their earthiness. Your dressing however sounds like it would be good on just about anything - including dirt:) Hope you had a very Merry TX Christmas and that you are making progress on your manuscript. Can't wait!!

Jen said...

I was a bit late for Christmas Eve, but made this tonight for our dinner, topped with sauteed Gulf shrimp tossed in chipotle powder, garlic, orange and lime juice. Yum! Definitely something I will make again. Thanks for the recipe!

The Fashionable Traveler said...

I love this salad, but I've never made it with beets...I will have to give it a try. Only recently have a learned to like beets myself...my favorite way to eat them is roasted.

Anonymous said...

So this is my first read and now officially my first blog to subscribe to! You are hilarious... and your dishes don't sound too bad either. :) I might even attempt a trip to the dark side myself now having read about ensalada de Noche Buena. Thanks for the laugh and the great new blog to look forward to. I can't wait to dig through the archives and start cooking some of these dishes for my family!

- Alison from Nacogdoches, TX

Holley said...

I have been making pie crust and keep returning to tried and true crisco, water and flour. I keep seeing recipes for milk or buttermilk instead of water. Have you tried any of these and what are your thoughts on the subject?

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