Christmas Feast #2: Tropical Salad

Tropical Salad-1

If I saw this recipe in a fru-fru cookbook or trendy cooking magazine I probably would not have tried it. I sometimes suspect recipes like these of being designed by a food editor to photograph well without much thought for the flavor combinations. But I’ve tried several unusual salads from this cookbook before and always found that I was happy with the results.

We were focusing on Ecuadorian cuisine this Christmas – this isn’t technically a traditional dish but it does use a nice variety of Latin American produce. With the menu we had, it added just the right kind of color, texture, and nice bright, tart flavor. It’s hard to get that in the winter and our meal definitely needed.

You will probably need to live somewhere with a sizable immigrant population to have a grocery store that carries ripe avacadoes and papaya and fresh or frozen passion fruit pulp in December. Fortunately, I live in Chicago and have many grocery stores like that – see note at the bottom if you want specifics.

Passion Fruit Viniagrette

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup thawed passion fruit pulp
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground peppercorns


1lb ripe, firm papaya
4 pink grapefruits
1 14 oz can hearts of palm
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
juice of 1 lime
freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe, firm avocados
baby spinach, rinsed well and drained


Combine all ingredients in a jar that seals well and shake until mixture thickens. Set aside.


  • Cut papaya lengthwise into quarters and remove seeds.Peel and cut crosswise into 1/4″ thick slices. Put in a plastic container and refrigerate until needed.
  • With a sharp knife, remove a slice from the ends of the grapefruit. With a grapefruit knife, remove the peel and membrane. Take sections out with a knife, arrange in a plastic container and refrigerate until needed.
  • Rinse hearts of palm and drain well. Cut into 1/2″ thick rounds and refrigerate until needed
  • Rinse tomatoes and cut in half
  • Soak onions in hot water for 5 minutes and drain. Place in a glass bowl and toss wtih lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
  • Up to 2 hours before serving, peel and pit avocados, then cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices. Cover tighly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • To assemble salad, place spinach on a large platter and arrange the fruits on top. Scatter onions over all. Shake the viniagrette and drizzle over the salad. Serve immediately.
  • Servings: 10
Dressing Ingredients Salad Ingredients
Passion Fruit Viniagrette Tropical Salad
Prepared Ingredients Assembled Salad
Tropical Salad-5 Tropical Salad-2

Shopping note for Chicago locals: if I’m looking for great Latin American produce and ingredients I prefer Tony’s or local fruit markets over any of the generic chain stores. We went to the Tony’s on Belmont, but the ones on Fullerton or Elston would work just as well.

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