Okay, this one is a little out there. I get it. But it’s so fun and different that I had to share. So I mentioned recently that I took a little field trip to my local hispanic market, Mi Tienda, which is owned by the supermarket chain, HEB.
So for my Houston friends, if you haven’t been here, think about checking it out. There is fun music the minute you walk through the entrance and an agua fresca/horchata bar and fresh tortillas and a huge bakery area and a cactus kiosk. Yes, a whole section of the store devoted to Nopal cactus!
After I got my horchata (which was awesome, by the way), I headed straight to check out the Nopal. It is sold freshly cut into strips and has kind of a tart taste uncooked. After doing a little research, it looks like it has some interesting health benefits. I just love to try new things and had never had cactus before.
I decided to cook my little Nopalitos with some onion and some ground cumin. Definitely have a strong preference for it cooked rather than raw. The cactus has a gelatinous quality similar to aloe vera or even cooked okra. I saw one reference that mentioned it tasted a little like green beans and I sort of agree.
So to make a meal, I heated a blue corn tortillas and spread a layer of vegetarian refried beans on top. I put the cooked Nopal cactus over that. Added some avocado slices and a tangy salsa I made with tomatillos, jicama and prickly pear. The whole dish had a very exotic thing going. Loved it!
Prickly pears are the fruit of the Nopal cactus. You have to be a little careful when you work with it because it may still have a few hairlike spines attached and FYI — these really hurt when they get stuck in your fingers. So to get to the fruit, you cut away the skin and remove the large but edible seeds. It’s a lot of work for not a lot of fruit. But I thought it was a fun experiment. I used one prickly pear for this recipe and I decided to juice the rest which tasted really, really good.
So whether you ever make this or not, I’m just here to share something new and different that I thought was rockin’ cool. If you ever see Nopales on a menu somewhere, give it a go. It’s yummy and good for you.
8 corn tortillas
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 1/2 cups freshly cut Nopales strips
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
1 avocado, sliced
Prickly pear salsa (recipe follows)
Sea salt and pepper
Heat tortillas in a dry saute pan or directly over a gas flame. Set aside. Warm refried beans until heated through. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add onions and cactus strips and saute until softened. Add cumin and cook about a minute more. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, place two tortillas on each plate. Top with refried beans, cactus mixture, avocado and salsa.
Prickly Pear Salsa
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, diced
2 tomatillos, diced
1/2 jicama, peeled and diced
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 prickly pear, peeled and seeds removed, chopped (be careful here)
1 lime, juiced
Sea salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.