Introduction: Christmas Tree Salad
This Instructable is for a salad that is in the shape of a Christmas tree. I’ve been making this festive salad for a few years now and it is always a big hit. It is very easy to make and fun to do with kids. There is not a fixed set of ingredients. Get creative!
The concept here is to have fairly dense foliage into which we will insert some decorative ingredients. Additional decoration will be sprinkled on top. While it is possible to have a Christmas tree salad with loose greens scattered in the pan, the effect is better when you make the effort to simulate a lush tree -- shaped like a real tree.
The essential item for this project is a Christmas tree-shaped pan. I use the Wilton #2105-2081 Iridescent Green Christmas Tree aluminum cake pan that is 14” x 10.25”. You can use any Christmas Tree-shaped pan or dish but this Instructable is only for the dish-style pan and not a 3-D pan meant to create a standing tree.
You can also use this design to make a crudité platter or even a charcuterie. I have included a small section on the snack tray variation.
Don't forget: This is salad is meant to be eaten! Don't go so crazy with your ingredients that your lettuce leaves are impractically large or you put in too few tomatoes. If needed, have a side dish with a mix of the additional ingredients ready when you plate the salad.
Large Christmas tree-shaped pan or dish
Lettuce Greens: curly kale; romaine; green leaf; butter lettuce; curly endive...
ORNAMENTS, GARLAND, AND TOPPER (choose from any of the following or other options)
- stick shapes veggies: carrot sticks; celery sticks
- multi-colored sliced or whole fruits and vegetables: cherry tomatoes; radishes; bell peppers; red onion; cauliflower; blueberries; raspberries; grapes; sliced strawberries, pomegranate seeds; melon balls; starfruit
- cheese: swiss cheese; goat cheese; cheddar
- crunchies: croutons; tortilla strips; nuts; sesame seeds
- salad dressing: French; Thousand Island; other creamy, visible dressing
Step 1: Prepare Your Ingredients
In this example, I am using curly kale, red pepper, yellow pepper, radishes, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, white mushrooms, and tri-color tortilla strips. I chose the kale for its nice, deep green tree color. Its stiff structure makes it easy to work with and helps with the structural integrity of the tree.
Wash all the ingredients well, including the salad greens. Slice or chop your "decorations"
Step 2: Set Up the Tree Branches
For whatever type of lettuce you have chosen, cut it into large leaves. Stand the leaves up, packing them into the base of the tree first and working your way towards the top. The tips of the lettuce leaves should stick out from the pan. By orienting all the leaves in the same way and packing them in really right, the salad will look like a lush Christmas tree. Packing the leaves tight will also come in handy when we start adding the decorations.
Ideally, the leaves at the bottom third of the pan (towards the trunk) would have the longest lettuce leaves. The mid-section can have slightly shorter leaves and the top of the tree can have the shortest leaves. (Make sure even the shortest leaves are long enough that they extend from the floor of the pan past the surface.) This will give it the most dimensional Christmas tree effect.
Step 3: Insert Embedded Ingredients
Some of your ingredients can be inserted into the thick leaves. A baby carrot stick can be inserted into the leaves such that only a little round orange dot shows up, looking like an ornament on the tree. Embedding ingredients is a good way to get a variety of food in your salad without the decorations getting too cluttered.
You may also want to insert some ingredients underneath the foliage, even if they can't be seen. Inserting some cherry tomatoes or bell peppers under the leaves will provide more ingredient variety when it comes time to munch this salad. This can also fluff up the foliage in places.
Step 4: Add Ornaments, Garland, and Topper
If you want garland on the tree, place strips of pepper, onion, or any other ingredient that can be cut into strips, diagonally.
Place additional ingredients as ornaments across the surface of the tree. Sprinkle additional "tinsel" ingredients such as the tortilla strips.
For the topper, use starfruit or any type of distinctive shape. Here I have used a carved radish.
MORE INGREDIENT IDEAS
- Use small cookie cutters, such as small stars, on slices of cheese or fruit
- Keep color in mind. I am not using green pepper because I want a greater contrast with the green lettuce background.
- Creamy salad dressing can work well for garland or dots. See photo in a later step of this Instructable for an example.
Step 5: A Word About Salad Dressing
Here is a different Christmas tree salad that has creamy dressing used as garland. You could choose to only add this small amount of dressing and then offer additional salad dressing on the table at serving time.
You could add "invisible" salad dressing such as a vinaigrette. Add this to the lettuce once the pan is filled and before the ornaments are added. If you add it to the lettuce before starting, your packing experience will be very messy.
ALUMINUM NOTE: The pan I am using is aluminum. Vinegar can corrode aluminum if left in contact with it for too long. Look out any hazards like this when using a cake pan for a salad bowl.
Step 6: Christmas Tree Snack Tray
Stick- or wedge-shaped ingredients can be stood on end or layered in downward fan shapes to create a tree branch effect. Good ingredients for this are celery sticks, carrot sticks, pretzel sticks, cheese sticks, rectangular crackers, pita bread wedges, pineapple spears....
You could insert a few (very few) sprigs of curly lettuce here and there to keep it leafy.
A small dressing dish filled with Ranch dressing or hummus, could be positioned as the topper, the trunk, or right in the middle of the tree.