Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recettes Secrètes: Ensalada de Noche Buena

Though I first experienced this salad a decade or so ago in Tucson when my mother prepared it for Christmas Eve (as she does now every year), its origins are in Santa Fe. Throughout the festivities on Christmas Eve ―Noche Buena, the “Good Night,” as it’s known there― New Mexico's lively and vibrant cuisine is paramount. This colorful and refreshing side dish proudly represents Santa Fe's unique blend of cultures and traditions.

Ensalada de Noche Buena
adapted from Rick Bayless and Homesick Texan

4 large beets, roasted and cut into sticks
3 seedless oranges, supremed
4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into sticks
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium (about 1 pound) jícama, peeled and cut into sticks
1 head of romaine lettuce
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 tablespoon colored candy cake decorations (grajeas in Mexico), for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Clean the beets and remove any leafy stems. 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 sticks and place in a large bowl with the Granny Smith apples.

Finely mince the zest of one orange and mix with the lime juice, orange juice, salt, sugar and olive oil. Drizzle over the beets and apples, stir to incorporate, and let stand 1 hour.

Cut away the rind and all white pith on the oranges. Cut between each white membrane and remove the segments. Reserve.

To serve, lay outer leaves of the romaine on a serving platter. Tear the heart to create a bed of lettuce. Scatter with the jicama sticks. Scoop the beet mixture into the center, then sprinkle with the reserved orange segments, pomegranate seeds, and peanuts. Garnish with orange zest and candies.

Serves 8

I was reminded by my friend Katie (a New Mexico native) at the Table Set holiday party, where I served this, how absolutely delicious Gruet Brut NV (also from New Mexico) is, and how well it pairs with this crisp salad. Trust me, it will make for a noche buena!

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