Holiday recipe: Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad)

Video by: Ignacio Torres

Looking for a last-minute Christmas side dish to make? Try this recipe for Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad), a festive recipe that looks beautiful and cheery on any table. A healthy counterpoint to many of the season’s hearty dishes, it’s a holiday staple in Mexico. And while there are as many interpretations of this salad as there are homes celebrating Las Navidades, there’s one ingredient that’s always present: bright red beets.

Today’s recipe comes to courtesy of Chef Iliana de la Vega, a Latin food scholar and owner of Austin’s acclaimed El Naranjo restaurant. “This ensalada may not be one of Mexico’s most indigenous recipes,” she says. “But there isn’t Christmas table without it.”

Ensalada de Nochebuena (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Ensalada de Nochebuena (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad)

2 pounds fresh beets
2 T granulated sugar
4 sugar cane sticks, peeled and cut in medium dice or sticks
4 navel oranges peeled and supremed (see video for demonstration)
3 apples, such as honey crisp, cut in 1-inch dice
1 large jicama, peeled and cut in 1-inch dice
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
1 cup peeled and roasted unsalted peanuts

Trim the beets and rinse them well. Fill a large pot with cold water and add the sugar. Place the unpeeled beets in the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the beets are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the beets.

Once cooked, remove the beets from the water and allow to cool. Reserve a cup and a half of the cooking water. Once cooled, peel the beets and dice them into 1-inch pieces.

3. In a large bowl mixing bowl, carefully toss together the diced beets, sugar cane, oranges, apples, jicama, banana and lettuce. Mix in the dressing (recipe follows.) Scatter the peanuts on top. Serves 6 to 8.

1 ½ cup of beets cooking liquid
½ cup sugar cane vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Salt, sugar and black pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients to taste.

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