Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nopales Salad

Once again I'm inspired to send a recipe in to the Wild Things Roundup, a monthly foraging recipe challenge. The challenge this month is "Nopales". Have you ever eaten nopales? Many cactuses are edible, but nopales are tasty, both for their paddles, and depending on the species, for their fruit, the prickly pear. Sadly, my plants don't make tasty fruits, but the paddles are delish. I find they taste best, when they are not much larger than an outstretched hand; kind of like a tangy green pepper. It's a good idea to wear gloves when handling them, as the little spines will stick in your hands otherwise. I'm fairly stubborn about touching everything with my skin, so I was regretting that a bit in the evening; but by morning they had worn themselves off. Wear gloves. Cut or twist the paddles from the plant, trying to damage the plant as little as possible so that it can recover and grow new paddles.

My recipe is not terribly original, it's like many tex-mex recipes, but it is tasty, so I hope someone out there enjoys it as much as I do. 

This is a mostly cooked salad. It could be done from a grill. I chose to blacken the veggies in a flat cast iron pan. I think it was designed for cooking fish, but I imagine it to be similar to a Mexican comal, and I use it to blacken veggies whenever I am cooking Mexican, which I love, love, love.

Ok, the ingredients:

1/2 large onion, cut into rounds
5 nopales
2 ears corn
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, these are adding alot to the flavor, so if you can find vine ripe, it'll be so much more flavorful
2 small mild peppers 
1 small jalapenos, depending on your love of hotness
2 cups cooked kidney or black beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. ground dried or minced fresh, sage
1/4 tsp. garlic

Adjust the seasonings depending on your own tastes.

I blacken the veggies pretty much in whole form, except for the onions. Transfer them to a plate to cool and then de-seed and/or chop them. 

You need to trim off all the spines on the cactus paddles before cooking. Gloves are still handy for this.
The paddles soften fairly quickly so keep an eye on them. You just want them to get tender. 

I do generally blacken tomatoes in this pan, but as you can see, the cherry tomatoes split pretty quickly, and while they didn't take on a yucky flavor, they were hard as hell to clean out of the pan afterward, so maybe steam them? I'm going to have to do it differently next time, maybe saute would be better.

Grill the onion, peppers (all), corn , and tomatoes, and then chop. I did grill the corn in the pan, it took awhile, probably an actual grill would go faster, or boil or steam them if time is a factor. Cut the kernels off the cobs. Save the cobs to add to soup stock, yum.

Mix the chopped and cut veggies in a large bowl. Add the spices, beans, cilantro and salt and adjust to taste. 


ps. I can't resist adding this photo from the same batch of a lovely bolete from the back yard, ain't it purty?

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