Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ensalada de Noche Buena

One of our neighbours was sorting out Christmas lights today. It's a bit early; I'm barely considering Hallowe'en costumes.

But I did start early with my addition to Sunday's Thanksgiving (Canadian) supper. I made Ensalada de Noche Buena, a traditional Mexican Christmas Eve dish. Why wait on the calendar when the makings were shouting at me in Safeway?

Ensalada de Noche Buena is a festive dish, in vivid Christmas colours, starting with the deep, rich red of sliced beets. The name can be translated, "Salad of the Good Night", where the "Good Night" is Christmas Eve; the salad is traditionally served at a midnight supper.

Beets, jicama, oranges, apple, pomegranate.

Here's the recipe, as I made it for 19 adults and 10 children. Cut in half for a dozen, divide approximately by 4 for a family.


  • Beets. I used about 4 cups of sliced, cooked beets.
  • Oranges. I used 4 medium mandarin oranges; peeled "normal" orange slices are good, too.
  • Jicama. This is a Mexican root vegetable, usually eaten raw, sliced, and sprinkled with lemon juice and chili powder. One large jicama was more than enough.
  • Green apple. I used one, but two or three would be better.
  • Pomegranate. One is plenty.
  • Orange juice, 1 cup.
  • 1 tsp. sugar.
  • 1 cup sour cream, for the dressing. (Optional.)
  • Unsalted roasted peanuts for a garnish.

Jicama (pronounced hee-cah-mah.) Photo from El Pilar.

Pomegranate. Image from Wikipedia.


Prep: can be done the day before.
  • Top the beets, trim the roots, wash, and boil in water to cover until cooked through. Drain and cool. Keep at least a cup of the juice.
  • Peel the jicama, using a sharp knife. The outer skin has a fiber coating underneath; you'll want to remove all of that. A potato peeler or scraper won't do the trick. Place the jicama in water, as you would a potato. A bit of lemon juice in the water helps to keep the flesh white.
  • Without taking the jicama out of the water for long, cut it in quarters, then in cubes about half an inch on the side, or in shoestring strips. Return to water a.s.a. p. Refrigerate. (For transport to the party, I put it in a large plastic bag and added a good squirt of lemon juice.)
  • Break apart the pomegranate, and pop out all the juicy kernels. Remove any white skin. Put the kernels aside in a covered bowl or a zipper plastic bag, and refrigerate.
  • When the beets are cool, peel away the cooked skin. It should just push off with your thumbs, but use a knife if necessary. Slice the beets across the grain. Refrigerate.
  • Mix the sour cream with some of the reserved beet juice, just enough to give it a good colour. Add a few tablespoons of orange juice, stirring as you go, until it's just thin enough to drizzle. Add the sugar, stir, and refrigerate.
Shortly before the meal is served:
  • In a big bowl, I placed the beets first, then the peeled sections of mandarin oranges.
  • I added wedges of green apple, then followed that with a bit of orange juice to keep the apple from browning.
  • Next, the jicama cubes. These will be white, but will quickly pick up colour from the beets. If you want them still white on the table, add them last.
  •  Add the remainder of the orange juice, and mix the whole thing gently.
  • Top the salad with the pomegranate seeds and the peanuts. (One of our family members is allergic to peanuts, so I put them on the side in a bowl.
  • Either drizzle the dressing over all, or serve it on the side.
  • Another way to serve this is to lay the individual ingredients out on a platter, over shredded lettuce or butter lettuce leaves. Dip the apple and jicama in orange juice first, and then make interesting patterns of red, orange, white and green. Drizzle with sweetened orange juice, sprinkle the pomegranates and peanuts on top, and add a dollop of pink dressing.
  • You can add other fruits, such as banana slices dipped in orange juice, round slices of scrubbed oranges, peel and all, chunks of pineapple, or peeled grapefruit sections. I thought of adding slices of kiwi fruit, for the green colour. Use your imagination!
This is great with turkey, as an alternative to cranberry sauce. And even the little kids ate it.


  1. Sounds interesting AND yummy. Unique.

  2. If I didn't loathe beets.... :-)

  3. Our Thanksgiving turkey was a flop so going to redo with a beef roast and this sounds great to go with! Always wondered what to do with jicama and don't get a pomegranate often, am in my beet phase right now as it's so very good for the liver, will mix it all together and enjoy, thanks for the good recipe and know how.


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