Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Nopales Test

This post is a little bit different than the usual.

This is more of a chronicle of an experiment than an actual recipe. Forgive my ignorance on the subject of Nopales, while I'm sure there are lots of great recipes out there for them, I have somehow avoided ever having cooked prickly pear cactus ever before. Yes for those of you in the dark, Nopales are indeed the cooked pads of the Prickly Pear cactus. It's something of standard fare in Mexican dining, and apparently makes for a great addition to salads, or as a part of fresh salsa. For me though this was a novelty, and definitely an exciting one.

 Our son has a fascination with cacti, he's 3 now, so its really the simple things that intrigue him. And I'd agree with him that by all rights cacti are pretty awesome. So I really bought this Nopal for my son, but preparing it can be a pain. I'd recommend you try it though, even if like me, it's mostly for the novelty.

To prepare the Nopal firstly, you'll have to cut all of the thorns out of the cactus pad. Sometimes you'll buy Nopal de-thorned.... wait. is thorn even the right word? Should it be spike? spine? Ah well, you know what I mean, the sharp pointy bits. Cut them out of the cactus pad and try not to get pricked. Also try not to utterly destroy the cactus in the process. This is easier said than done, and make note, this will take some time to do.

Once you've cut off the thorns you'll want to rinse off the cactus and start cutting it up into small pieces. Small is essential because you're going to need to cook this for quite a while before its ready to be eaten. Why you may ask... because of the CACTUS SLIME.

Cactus slime is gross. Seriously gross, and Nopals are full of it. So boiling or frying out all of the sap is essential before eating. As you can see I cut up the Nopal and put it in the pot with a third of a yellow onion, as well as 3 cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of salt. then I just covered it all with water and boiled it on low for 40 minutes. When it was finished I double rinsed the veggies to make sure they weren't at all slimey.

This is the jumping off point for Nopales, here's where you might want to put it into a tomato sauce for pasta, or add it to your Never the Same Chili along with some jalapenos, red pepper, and sweet corn for a Mexican style meal. In our case we already had a main course ready to go in some yummy Curry Carrot Soup (recipe for that to come to TFL sometime down the road), so all we needed the Nopales for was a side. I added some more salt for seasoning and served as it.

Our son, being 3, was not interested in actually easting it. Erica and I however thought it tasted pretty good. Kind of like diced green beans. I have a feeling it would be even better as a part of a larger meal though instead of a side. Maybe we'll try it again one of these days, and I'll of course let you know how it turns out.

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