Are you up for a fun cooking challenge? Learn how to prepare cactus by mixing into a salad or tossing it on the grill. Start by scraping the prickles off the cactus paddles and trimming the edges. Then you can boil the cactus and mix it with chopped onions, peppers, and tomatoes to make a simple salad. You can also throw the paddles directly onto a hot grill to give the cactus a delicious smoky flavor.
[Edit]Boiled Nopales Salad
6 cactus paddles
1 tomatillo husk
1/4 of a white onion, cut into wedges
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 g) of salt
1 1/2 cups (300 g) of chopped tomatoes
2 serrano peppers, minced
1/2 cup (75 g) of chopped onion
of lemon juice
1/2 cup (25 g) of fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon (1 g) of Mexican oregano
of olive oil
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup (60 g) of fresh cheese (queso fresco), crumbled
Corn tortillas or tostadas to serveMakes 4 servings
[Edit]Grilled Cactus Paddles
6 to 8 nopales cactus paddles
of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) of salt
1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) of ground pepperMakes 4 servings
[Edit]Boiled Nopales Salad
Trim the edge from 6 paddles and scrape off the prickly spines. Cut off the outer from the edge of each cactus paddle. Then hold each paddle by the stem and carefully scrape against the prickles using a sharp knife. The prickly spines should fall off.
Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sharp thorns.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cut the paddles into any size you want. Fill a pot that’s at least in size with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, cut each of the cactus paddles into pieces or strips.
You can slice or cut the cactus paddles into any size you want, but keep the pieces uniform.
Put the cactus pieces, tomatillo husk, onion, garlic, and salt into the pot. Carefully put the cactus pieces or strips into the boiling water, so the water doesn’t splash you. Add 1 tomatillo husk, 1/4 of a white onion, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 g) of salt, and 1 garlic clove.
Keep the water boiling over high heat after you add the ingredients.
Boil the uncovered cactus mixture for 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cactus pieces and seasonings boil vigorously so the cactus begins to soften. As the cactus boils, it will release a sticky substance that floats to the top of the water.
You may need to adjust the burner if you think the foamy water will boil over the side of the pot.
Drain the mixture and rinse it under cold water. Set a colander in the sink and turn off the burner. Use caution as you pour the mixture into the colander. To stop the cactus from cooking, immediately run cold water over it and let it drain again.
At this point, you can refrigerate the boiled cactus in an airtight container for up to 3 to 5 days.
Stir the cactus with tomatoes, serrano peppers, cilantro, and onion. Put the drained cactus pieces into a serving bowl and add 1 1/2 cup (300 g) of chopped tomatoes, 2 minced serrano peppers, 1/2 cup (25 g) of chopped cilantro, and 1/2 cup (75 g) of chopped onion.
For a rustic salad, keep the pepper and onion pieces large.
Mix the juice, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. Get out a small bowl and pour in of lemon juice along with of olive oil. Whisk in 1 teaspoon (1 g) of Mexican oregano along with salt and pepper according to your taste.
Use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled for the best flavor.
Toss the dressing into the nopales salad. Immediately pour the dressing over the cactus and vegetables in the serving bowl. Then use a large spoon to stir the ingredients until they’re evenly coated with the dressing.
Taste the salad at this point and adjust the seasoning according to your preferences.
Serve the nopales salad with tortillas and your favorite toppings. Warm corn tortillas and spoon some of the nopales salad onto them. Then top the nopales with freshly sliced avocado, 1/2 cup (60 g) of crumbled fresh cheese, and sauce.
Refrigerate the leftover nopales salad in an airtight container for up to 3 days.[Edit]Grilled Cactus Paddles
Light a gas or charcoal grill. If you’re using a gas grill, turn the burners to medium heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney with charcoal briquettes and light them. Once the briquettes are hot and lightly covered with ash, dump them in the center of the grill.
For additional flavor, consider adding mesquite or hickory chips to the briquettes before you grill the cactus paddles.
Cut the outer edge off of 6 to 8 cactus paddles. Put the paddles on a cutting board and trim off the entire edge from each paddle using a sharp knife. You only need to trim away from the edge.
Consider wearing gloves to protect your skin from the prickly spines of the cactus paddles.
Scrape the prickly spines from each paddle. Carefully use a chef’s knife to scrape against both sides of the cactus paddles, so the spines or thorns fall off. Keep scraping until you don’t see any black spines left. Then rinse the paddles and dry them completely.
To make it easier to handle, grasp the cactus paddle by its stem as you scrape.
Season the paddles with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Dip a pastry brush into of olive oil and brush it onto each side of the cactus paddles. Then get out 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) of salt and 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) of ground pepper. Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over the cactus.
Remember to turn the paddles and season the other side as well.
Place the paddles on the grill. Arrange the cactus paddles so they’re directly over the coals. While it’s alright if the paddles touch each other on the grill, they should be in a single layer.
If you can’t fit all of the cactus paddles on the grill in a single layer, grill them in batches.
Grill the cactus paddles for 6 to 8 minutes. Cover the grill and cook the cactus paddles until they turn a yellow-green color. This should take 3 to 4 minutes. Then use tongs to carefully turn each cactus paddle over and finish grilling the other sides of the paddles until they’re yellow-green.
The cactus paddles should look charred in spots.
Slice the paddles and serve them while they’re hot. Use tongs to transfer the grilled cactus paddles to a cutting board. Then use a sharp knife to slice the paddles into long strips. Serve the grilled cactus paddles with warm tortillas, grilled corn on the cob, or fresh salsa.
You can refrigerate leftover grilled paddles in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days, but their flavor can become bitter as they’re stored.[Edit]Tips
If you find wild barrel cactus, avoid using it in these recipes. Barrel cactus is best eaten raw, although you can separate and bake with the seeds.
For an extra-savory flavor, lay a slice of your favorite cheese, such as mozzarella or queso fresco, over the paddles just before serving them. The heat from the paddles should melt the cheese.[Edit]Things You’ll Need
Measuring cups and spoons
Large pot with a lid
Knife and cutting board
Serving bowl[Edit]Grilled Cactus Paddles
Knife and cutting board
Gas or charcoal grill