For this month’s Secret Recipe Club challenge, I was thrilled to be assigned a food blogger from my old home state of Colorado, Lea Ann Brown of Cooking on the Ranch. I so miss Colorado’s food blogging community! While I was tempted to try out several of Lea Ann’s breakfast recipes (anything with an egg is A-OK with me), I decided trying her Mexican Christmas Eve Salad would be more seasonally appropriate. Yes, yes, I know it’s June, but making a nice salad for dinner seems like a good idea when it’s too hot to cook. Don’t you agree?
I took Lea Ann’s advice and make this a chopped salad and arranged it in a trifle bowl, since she felt the Mexican Christmas Eve Salad reminded her of an English trifle. In addition, I did a little research on Ensalada de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve Salad. According to Hispanic Kitchen,
Although many variations exist, three ingredients are at the core: beets, pomegranate and jicama. The root vegetable – jicama is also known as "Mexican potato," so it's an appropriate member. Beets are included for color along with pomegranate seeds sprinkled across the top. Apples, oranges, and sometimes bananas round out the list.
Lea Ann’s version uses pomegranate seeds, romaine lettuce, peanuts, oranges, jicama, along with red and golden beets. I’ve seen other recipes use pepitas (pumpkin seeds), apples, bananas, and pine nuts. I kept pretty true to her recipe, but omitted the peanuts due to my daughter’s nut allergy. I’ll serve pepitas on the side if anyone’s interested in adding them to their salad, though I doubt my kids will go for it. For the dressing, most recipes call for Crème Mexicana, which is Mexican sour cream. If you cannot find it in your grocery store or want to use something lighter, use nonfat Greek yogurt instead. I found Lea Ann’s version super thick, so I thinned it with rice vinegar. Finally, I doubled Lea Ann’s recipe so it would fit in my Pampered Chef trifle bowl.
How to smoke beets
After having smoked cauliflower at Pulaski Heights BBQ in Athens, GA, I started experimenting by smoking various vegetables from beets to kohlrabi. While you can roast beets in the oven using my method for cooking and peeling beets, I love smoking beets in my electric smoker. Here’s how:
- Set smoker to 275 degrees. Add your favorite type of wood chips. And don’t forget to add water to the drip pan!
- Coat an oven safe roasting pan with cooking spray. (Make sure your pan will fit inside your smoker.)
- Remove beet tops from beets and set aside. (Use the beet tops to make a Simple Beet Salad.)
- Wash beets. Cut into quarters and place in your roasting pan.
- Place roasting pan in your smoker and cook for 3 hours or until the beets are soft when pricked with a knife or fork.
- Remove from smoker and let cool.
- Peel skin off beats with a paring knife.
Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad
- 6 red beets, smoked, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 romaine heart, coarsely chopped
- 1 small jicama, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 navel oranges, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 (5.3 ounce) containers pomegranate arils
- Layer ingredients in your trifle bowl in the order listed. For fun you may want to break up the romaine lettuce into two layers.
- Since beets have a tendency to run, you may want to have them as the bottom layer.
- 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup Crème Mexicana
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 canned chipotle chilies, minced
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- In a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients and stir until blended.
- Serve on the side.