Pomegranate: Another of my paintings from 2005 in Phoenix.
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.
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: