Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cooking with Nopales (prickly pear cactus)

I have always been fascinated with succulent plants and cactus, but it wasn't until the last few years that I started eating them.  Nopales is a prickly pear cactus that I'm sure you have seen growing outside, or as a house plant.  In fact,  this hearty plant grows in Georgia and even at my mom's house in Ohio.

Nopales have a light, slightly tart flavor and have a crisp texture on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. To me it seems like a vegetable because they are very rich in fiber.  They are also rich in vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K) and minerals (magnesium, potassium), in recent years, I have really grown to love them.

Until several months ago when mis suegras (in-law's) did a big landscaping project, they grew this cactus in the back yard and we were able to go outside with a knife and cut off a peddle or two.  If you don't have it growing though, you can check your local Whole Foods, or you may even need to go to a specialty mexican grocery.  You will see them in the markets of Mexico for just 5 pesos, here it's closer to $1.
After you find it, the hard part is over.
When deciding what do do with this beautiful cactus I considered nopales en crema, [which I will share with you another time] but I wanted something that really highlights the flavor of the cactus, so I opted for a simple saute.

2 cactus paddles
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 serrano peppers, diced
2tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Boil cactus until until tender (but not mushy)  about 15 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.
Heat olive oil and saute garlic and onion until translucent
Add tomatoes, peppers and cactus and until cooked through
Serve hot.  Que rico.

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