Yet another culinary adventure with my boyfriend has turned up surprisingly tasty results. While I had eaten nopales (the young leaves, or “pads” of a prickly pear cactus) before at restaurants, I had never attempted to cook them myself. Those spines are intimidating! But, about once every month or so, the Beau and I pick up some unfamiliar piece of produce at the store, google for recipes, and hope for the best.
This one is interesting because it requires a bit of prep work. The pads that we got still had the pricklies in them, so we had to carefully remove them. It’s recommended that you kind of gouge out the whole pore where the spine comes out, and not just the spine/prickly/stabber itself. You want to be safe. Since we made this recipe, I have seen these for sale, with the pricklies already removed… if you see those, I would highly recommend getting them, as removing the spines is quite a chore. Here’s a close-up of one of the pads before removing the spines.
And here is the prickly graveyard. It takes a good 10 minutes of tedious work to get this accomplished. Like I said, if you can find the leaves already de-spined, I highly recommend those instead.
Once you remove all of the spikes, you are ready for whichever recipe you may find. Our recipe requires bite-size pieces. Here’s what we came up with… I really liked how this dish turned out!
Stir-Fried Cactus with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Herbs
- two large prickly-pear pads (about 9 inches long), prepared as above, and then cut into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup yellow onion (about half an onion), chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 cup bell pepper (we used yellow), chopped
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1 tsp dry basil
- 1/2 tsp dry thyme
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic, cook for about 1 minute. Add cactus to the oil, cover and cook over medium heat. Some sticky, nasty-looking juice will start to come out, but don’t worry. Keep cooking this way for about 8 minutes, stirring periodically. Then uncover, add the onions, and keep cooking until the cactus is tender and no longer sticky and goopy (about 10 more minutes). Trust me, it goes away. Add the peppers, vinegar, tomatoes, and herbs. Mix everything gently until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
I believe we had this over quinoa, and it was very flavorful and tasty.
Have you tried nopales? Do you know any good recipes? I would love to pick up another couple of leaves, and try something new, if you have anything to share!