Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Trying New Things: Nopales

This post has been linked to Teach Me Tuesday and Anything Goes at Joy Focused Learning.

I love shopping at Mexican and Asian markets.  For one thing, the prices are often unbeatable!  For another, they provide an excellent opportunity to learn new ways to cook and new ways to eat.  One wonderful vegetable I have added to our diet (thanks to Mexican grocers) is the nopal (cactus pads).  These are the same cacti from which prickly pear (known in Spanish as "tuna") are gathered.  The pads and the fruit are both nutritious and tasty, and they are inexpensive.  The cactus itself is also common in fields and landscaping in California and the Southwest.  Trying new foods, especially inexpensive ones, is yet another part of my effort to become a "thrifty cook."

Depending on where you find them, Nopales can be found canned (or in a jar), fresh and precut, whole with the spines removed, or whole with spines.  When bought whole, it is important to wash and examine them carefully.  Remove any and all spines.  You will also want to cut off the bottom half inch of the cactus pad and any black spots (more detailed instructions may be found here).

Many traditional recipes may be found online for Nopales.  They are also a popular addition to scrambled eggs. I like to put them in bean soup and chilli.  The addition of salt makes them sour (canned ones are salted), but they are very mild when prepared without salt.  Don't be put off by their raw texture.  They contain a slime similar to that in okra, but it isn't really noticeable when cooked in combination with other ingredients.

Here's a more distinctly American use for them:

Mexican-Style Quiche

2 small potatoes or 1 medium potato, cut small (or you could use tortilla dough made from masa harina)
1T butter
1 small onion
1 nopal pads
4 eggs
1.5c milk
1T each dry oregano and cilantro 
1tsp chilli powder
0.5-0.75 c Monterey Jack cheese (pepper jack would be fun)

Boil diced potatoes until soft.  Drain them, mash them, and spread them in the bottom of an oven-safe casserole or 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, until the top starts to turn golden.

Meanwhile, chop the onion, and sauté it in the butter until translucent.  While the onion cooks, wash, trim, and dice the nopal.  Add the nopal to the skillet, and continue to sauté until it is tender.

Beat the eggs, add in the milk and seasonings, and combine thoroughly.

When the potato crust has cooked, spread the cheese over it, put the onion and nopal mixture on top, and pour the egg and milk mixture over it all.

Bake at 350 until the egg has set (about 45 minutes).

1 comment:

Angela Bennett said...

Thanks for sharing this, my family loves to try new things! Thanks again for linking up at Anything Goes last week. I would love it if you stopped by to link up a post or two at this week's link-up. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!