A beloved pomegranate recipe: Ensalada de Nochebuena

Pomegranate: Another of my paintings from 2005 in Phoenix.

Pomegranate ripens in the late autumn, and possesses many healing compounds.

I look forward to preparing this red, green and gold salad, with its signature combination of sweet, savory, and spicy ingredients, for friends and family at some point in December each year. Like many holiday dishes, it’s a time-consuming production, but, unlike most holiday foods, it’s light and refreshing. It’s traditional for Christmas Eve in Mexico, hence the name.

pomegranate salad.jpg

Ensalada de Nochebuena

Eight to sixteen romaine lettuce leaves, (the number depends upon the size of the leaves and the size of the salad bowl) washed, dried in a salad spinner or by shaking the water off them into the sink, and arranged around the sides of a large bowl with the stems in the center

Dressing: juice of one orange and one lemon, mixed with 4 T. liquid honey

All of the seeds of a medium to large pomegranate

All of the sections of two navel oranges, cut into bite-sized pieces

One large jicama, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

One small can of mild green chiles, diced

One small sweet Bermuda or Maui onion, peeled and diced

4 ounces of soft (not tough) dried fruit, diced (papaya spears, apricots, mango, peach, pear, etc.)

The smaller inner leaves of the romaine head you used to line the salad bowl, washed, dried and sliced or torn into bite sized pieces.  Use more lettuce if you like.

Lightly toss together all of the ingredients except the big romaine leaves lining the salad bowl. Pour the tossed salad into the romaine lined bowl and serve immediately.

I love the combination of contrasting flavors in the recipe above. However, as folk traditions often do, Ensalada de Noche Buena varies from household to household. I have seen a wide variety of ingredients used, including the following:

Roasted peanuts or pinenuts, sprinkled whole on top and/or chopped and mixed into the salad

Peeled, cored, chopped apples

Peeled, sliced beets, steamed and chilled

Mayonnaise thinned with fruit juice

Peeled, sliced ripe bananas

Fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces

Stick sugarcane, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces

I encourage you to invent your own Ensalada de Nochebuena based on what is most easily available and pleasing to your palate.

Check out this short, wordless video for the easy way to cut open a pomegranate: