Mexico is enduring its share of challenges; the border conflicts are terrible , and it may seem at times as if the bad guys are winning down there. I pray this all changes, for I love Mexico. I have been there over 25 times, mostly alone, always safe, always cared for, always adopted by the people (I once toured the mainland with my parents in a huge Class C: it almost spelled the death of familial love but that’s for another blog). While I can’t fix Mexico’s problems (or our own country’s, for that matter), I can tell you about a Christmas salad I had in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, and why I loved it even though it was nowhere near Christmas, as in June.
First, you have to be able to say Tlaquepaque. Work with me people: Tah- lah -kay –pah kay. See, wasn’t that easy?
Tlaquepaque is a little artists’ enclave about 10 kilometers from Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara. It has a cool “vibe” and a wonderful market-style center with a Spanish colonial feel: we’re talking heavy on personality and culture. Its walkable shopping/dining area is completely closed to auto traffic which makes for a great hang-out experience.
It was clear Tlaquepaque is where Mexico’s own people vacation, always a good endorsement of place. As a result, it’s not one of those Americanized tourist traps. It’s really old style lovely Mexico at its finest. I loved the little shops filled with ceramics, bronze sculptures, textiles, and blown glass. It isn’t just another junk tourist town at all. This little town, and neighboring Spanish colonial Guadalajara, are worth the trip.
Back to the Christmas Eve salad: It was June and I was immersed in Spanish and art classes in Tlaquepaque. I was dining in one of the awesome little central plaza colonial restaurants, and I asked if they had anything “different” from what I had been choosing. My addiction to guacamole can get in my way. The server suggested their Christmas Eve Salad, telling me it’s a healthy and popular change from all the Christmas sweets seen during the holidays there. He didn’t care if it was June, so neither did I. If you burn out on the sweets and fats of the holiday season, give this salad a try. It’s really easy to make in a tiny RV kitchen. Fruit in season is part of the recipe, so your local grocery may dictate your options here:
Christmas Eve Salad
yield: Serves 6
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice (come on…get a real lemon)
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 6-7 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 jalapeno (take out seeds) and cut up finely (mince)
• 4 oranges (hack away all peels and piths) sliced into round sections
• 2 grapefruit (hack away all peels and piths) Cut grapefruit in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into half rounds.
• 1 head Romaine or butter lettuce
• 3 pitted and peeled avocados: slice them thin
• 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
• Pomegranate seeds (optional but awesome)
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced, red or yellow
Combine lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Mix in minced jalapeño .Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead.)
Line platter with lettuce. Arrange orange slices in center of platter, overlapping slices.
Arrange grapefruit slices around oranges, overlapping slices. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)
Arrange avocado slices around grapefruit, overlapping slices.
Top with nuts and pomegranate seeds, if desired.
Arrange onions over all.
Drizzle dressing over.
Now, I ‘gotta tell ya…I love this, but it may not be everybody’s thing. It’s the unusual combination of heat, sweet, citrus, and crunch that does it for me, and reminds me of just about every place I’ve been in Mexico. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!
Happy Tales, and Feliz Navidad,