Mixed Citrus and Beet Salad (Ensalada Navidad)

I love citrus season so much.  We scarf down big bags of grapefruits, Cara Cara and Heirloom Navel oranges (yay Trader Joes!) and I definitely break into my happy dance right in the produce aisle (can’t stop won’t stop!) when I spy the first Meyer Lemons of the season.  Swoon!  I also love me some beets, so I have always been attracted to the gorgeous Mexican Christmas salad, Ensalada Navidad.

There are numerous versions of this salad with all kinds of different formats and add ins, but a great many feature mixed citrus fruits and beets.  I needed to bring something to small group and I had everything I needed on hand, so I whipped up a platter of healthy, gorgeous, seasonal goodness to share.

Here’s what you need:

  • 5 oranges – all one kind or a mix of Heirloom Navel, Cara Cara, Blood, etc.
  • 1 lb of cooked beets (I used the kind you get in the produce aisle that are already cooked and vacuum packed. You can roast your own if you like, but that is 1000% more work than I think it’s worth here, but you do you)
  • 1 Meyer Lemon
  • 1/2 cup toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds (Pepitas)
  • 2-3 Tbsp honey, to taste
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil such as grapeseed
  • kosher salt to taste

Here’s what to do:

Zest one of the oranges and put the zest in a small mixing bowl where you will build the dressing.  Carefully cut the rinds off all the oranges.  You do NOT need to cut the rind off the Meyer Lemon.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist another angle – is there anything more beautiful and cheery than citrus fruit??? Nope!

Okay, now don’t toss those rinds into the compost heap just yet.  You are going to give each one a quick squeeze over your dressing bowl to catch all that juice for your dressing. Hopefully you will end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 Tbsp of orange juice.

Slice the oranges and beets into 1/4″ thick slices, and the Meyer Lemon into paper thin slices.  The oranges & beets will be slicker than wet soap, so make sure your knife is super-sharp and you take your time!

Again, just so gorgeous, no?  It’s moments like this that I am once again grateful that God gives us such an amazing variety of foods to enjoy! If you noticed the beets didn’t make it to the photo shoot, I had them segregated in a small bowl so they wouldn’t bleed all over the other fruits or me!

Arrange the beets and citrus in rows on your platter – be creative and do it how it looks best to you.  I thought a blue platter would look nice with the orange & red fruits, but yeah, not so much!  I guess that’s why I mostly use white serving pieces…

Yep, a neutral serving platter was the way to go, but I was not about to embark on a do-over.  Why that didn’t occur to me on row 1 is I believe what psychologists call “Cognitive Tunneling”. ; )

You should already have the zest of one orange and about 3 Tbsp (give or take) orange juice in your dressing bowl.  To that add the lime juice and zest, the honey, oil and about 1/4 tsp kosher salt.  Whisk together and taste.

Add more honey or salt if you like, or if you feel like the dressing should be a bit more tart, add a splash of white wine or rice vinegar (something with a neutral taste).

Drizzle the dressing all over the salad (you don’t have to use it all – see below for what to do with any extra) and top with the pepitas.  Once you dress the salad, eat it fairly soon.

To make it ahead, you can arrange the fruits and chill them for a few hours at most.  If you store it too long the fruit will just start losing juice and wilt on you.  A decidedly un-Feliz Navidad.

Any leftover dressing is amazing tossed with crisp salad greens such as Iceberg or Romaine, supremed orange sections and diced avocado.  That was my glorious lunch the next day!

 

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