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Need tasty, non-green-based salad recipe for Xmas

Here's the story: I'm cooking Xmas dinner for my fiance's family. This will be the first time I cook for his mother, so I'm wigging out just a bit -- she's a very traditional, old-school Mexican (!) mom who churns out home-cooking like a well-oiled machine. To boot, I'm a vegetarian. Mexican future mother-in-law + vegetarian Xmas = WOW! The risks we take.

In any case, my main entree is a spinach-ricotta pie (based on Molly Katzen's Moosewood recipe), which I'm serving with tomato sauce dribbled on top. Because the pie is VERY green and spinach-y, I'm eager to serve some type of salad (be it warm or cold; cold is better) that serves as a punchy contrast to the pie that will come after it. Something fresh, light, tasty, and of course, vegetarian. I was thinking of incorporating beans (NO BLACK BEAN SALAD, however) for a protein element. Normally I'd go with tofu and raw veggies lightly tossed in vinaigrette, but I don't want to completely freak them out.

Any ideas for creative but fairly simple salads that don't feature greens as the main building block?

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  1. I'd go with beets, red onions, and maybe pine nuts. Probably just a bit of parsley would catch the eye.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sagestrat

      Beets sound great, and you could do a mixture of red and gold. Maybe add some fennel and orange too.

    2. A popular Mexican style of salad involves a mix of crunchy vegetables and fruits, seasoned with salt, citrus juice, hot chile, and cilantro. It is often called pico de gallo, though it is different from the coarse salsa by that name. Jicama is commonly used, but I also use bell peppers, apples, cucumbers, mandarin orange segments, etc. The sour part can be just lime juice, or a mix of orange, grapefruit and lime. You can even buy pico de gallo seasonings, which consist of the pepper and salt, and may be dehydrated lime.

      The fruits and vegetables can be diced, or cut in long sticks.

      paulj

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        I love pico de gallo with black beans and corn made with a lime dressing (so there are black beans but it's not the main part of the salad, just some sprinkled through). And, it's easily made in advance and keeps well.

        I'd also consider a wild rice and roasted vegetable salad:

        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

      2. I make a fresh corn salad with Black beans (you could use something else) serrano chilies lime juice, red onion, grape tomatoes, cilantro and roasted red pepper. Its fresh and very good, but if you were to add the beans, I do put in a about a half a cup of black beans. The salad is more about the corn, lime and fresh cilantro. You barely cook the fresh corn adding a little sugar, cool it and then start making the rest of the salad. Its great cold or room temperature.

        And I don't want to discourage you, but you might want to add some other dishes, traditional Mexican holidays are feasts in this culture as well many others. Food is a very important and a way of showing love and respect, so maybe chilie rellenos, and tamales..just a suggestion.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chef chicklet

          I wouldn't try to replicate a Mexican Christmas meal - it invites too much comparison to the authentic version. I think it is safer to draw inspiration from related cuisines. For example when I had Korean guests, I made dishes which were more Chinese and Japanese in origin (red cooked chicken, soba, etc).

          In this case, something with chickpeas, but with, say a Spanish or middle eastern twist might go well. A Cuban style black beans and rice comes to mind, or Caribbean rice and peas (pigeon peas or blackeye peas). I think a rice side would be a appreciated.

          Tamales and rellenos are items that are good when done with traditional skill, but can be easily messed up by a novice.
          paulj

          1. re: chef chicklet

            I agree with chef chicklet - some traditional Mexican Christmas dishes would send a nice message. Yes, they can be done wrong by novices. But at least the attempt will say "I want to respect your family and traditions." Maybe your fiancee can tell you what his family usually does for a holiday meal?

            Do you do dairy? That would add a lot of options.

            1. re: lupaglupa

              We are doing a Mexican Christmas dinner with veggetarian options for everything - tamales, chiles en nogada, roasted sweet potatoes...salad...

              OK some of it is inspired, not traditional, but tastey

          2. I read your question and thought "chickpeas"! I'd probably go for a Middle Eastern style with parsley, oregano, tomato, cucumber, onion, maybe sumac and lemon juice.

            This is a Mexican style chickpea salad that sounds very good from FN's site
            http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

            1. I enjoy sliced roasted beets arranged on a platter with orange segments, very thinly sliced red onion broken into rings, and chopped hazelnuts, dressed with a vinaigrette made with orange juice, orange zest and hazelnut oil. If you want beans but not black ones, you can combine cannellini beans with halved cherry tomatoes, sliced scallions or finely chopped red onion, parsley, and a garlicky vinaigrette. I know you aren't looking for any more green, but the beans look particularly appealing if you serve individual portions in lettuce cups. Either way, you get some lovely red to go with your green entrée... and these can be assembled early and served either chilled or at room temperature. For a non-salad starter that goes well with spinach pie, toast baguette slices and top with a schmear of goat cheese and a slice of roasted red pepper. Feliz Navidad!