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

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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!

              1. One of the Chez Panisse cookbooks has a delicious and Christmasy salad made with red cabbage, apple slices, walnuts and goat cheese. It was delicious.

                1. For Christmas Eve, I almost always serve a tre colore salad - romaine, Belgian endive, and radicchio. You could use a relatively small amount of romaine, compared to the endive and radicchio. Top with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts, and toss with vinaigrette. It would offer a nice, crisp textural contrast to the spinach pie, as well as color contrast.

                  1. How about a shredded green papaya salad? I love the thai version with tomatoes, green beans and peanuts, but maybe you could add a few mexican flavors? Like cilantro and jalapenos?

                    1. Your entree sounds somewhat akin to spanakopeta (greek spinach pie), in which case I think the perfect accompaniment would be a greek salad. Cubed cucumbers (be sure to use persian or japanese cucumbers), tomato, green pepper, feta, olives and onions, dressed with a red wine and olive oil vinagrette and seasoned with salt, fresh ground pepper and oregano.

                      1. lots of good ideas already. I would also consider a winter white salad: frisee, thinly shaved fennel, celery (although I omit because I hate it), shaved parmesan, light dressing. You could add cucumber and/or apple as well.

                        1. check out the quinoa thread - lots of great ideas. They will like it, too!

                          1. My favorite NON GREEN salad is Mango and Carrot slivers, in a simple asian vinagarette: rice wine vinagar, sugar, chillies, fresh mint or cilantro and salt. mmmmm it's a crowd pleaser!

                            1. It may not be that creative, but I LOVE citrus and fennel salads in the middle of the winter. Crunchy and refreshing. I mix it up often, but my favorite version right now is shaved fennel, clementine segments, all tossed with a homemade vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a touch of dijon mustard to hold emulsification, a little honey and clementine juice to sweeten it up, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Very simple and very delicious.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 4Snisl

                                For those of you suggesting a Mexican dish, trust me -- I thought of it and was roundly discouraged by my fiance. The few dishes I have mastered rarely feature on their holiday menu, and he thought it was "cuter" if I demonstrated my own traditions (being that I've already had holiday meals with his family, experiencing their traditions). That said...

                                beets sound lovely, but the fiance won't allow it. The mango & carrot salad suggested by CookieGal sounds interesting, as does shredded papaya (one I've never had; will have to search for a recipe) and, of course, chickpeas. I do love chickpeas and I'm eager to incorporate them somehow -- but I have a feeling this will boil down to the groceries I find this weekend. I always need to have 2 disparate plans, because there's a chance I won't find the main ingredient.

                                Thanks all for your suggestions. I did think of pico de gallo, too -- I've had it in Mexico and it's not terribly difficult. That will be option C if I really run out of ingredients locally.

                                Thanks so much, and enjoy the holidays!

                              2. Fennel, belgian endive, parsley, parmesan, and lemon/olive oil dressing with a bit of truffle oil?
                                Fennel, blood oranges, oil cured black olives with citrus dressing
                                Chickpeas, sweet grilled carrots, and a pimenton dressing?
                                Grilled vegetables and (Italian-style) salsa verde?

                                As others have said, you can't win with Mexican food, even if it is delicous. No one will offend the matriarch by praising your efforts. (A better option is to invite her to bring something, such as tomales but it sounds like has already been discussed and dismissed.)

                                1. how about bulgar? easy and fast, chop up lots of celery, cuke, and black olives and parsley. Olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Nice grain based side dish. Don't know if it qualifies as a salad,

                                  1. My favorite salad is chickpeas, bell peppers, tomato, cucumber, green onions, and lots of parsley (veggies chopped to be the same size as the beans) with minced garlic, a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and a sprinkle of oregano, S&P. Let it all sit about half an hour before serving.