Monday, September 9, 2019

Eating Cacti

     I love cooking and eating unique foods, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I have tried and fallen completely in love with several preparations of Nopales, or Prickly Pears. Not only can you eat the cactus pads, but you can also eat the fruit, and the whole plant makes some delicious dishes. So I figured I'd share with you a variety of Cactus recipes, these recipes are still Gluten Free and Vegetarian, but some of them do include eggs and dairy.

     Before we get into the recipes, here's a quick video on how to clean the cactus pads so you don't eat one of the spines. Nobody wants to do that.

This lovely woman has a YouTube channel devoted to Meatless Mexican Recipes, I encourage everyone to check her out!

But now that you know how to clean your cactus, on to the recipes!

1.  Cactus goes well with eggs? Who knew? But this is such a great dish! And it's super simple, great for breakfast or brunch. My husband and I love to stuff tortillas with this and make a Mexican Breakfast Burrito as well.

Huevos con Nopales

1 tbsp Olive Oil
4 Green Onions, diced (white and green parts are welcome)
3 Garlic Cloves, smashed and minced
1 cup Nopales, diced (blanch them if you want the goo gone, but this step is optional)
1 small Hot Pepper (Serrano is my go-to, but you can use Jalapeno or Habanero as well), diced
4 Eggs, beaten well
1 small Roma Tomato, diced (optional, but I really like this touch)
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

     In a skillet, over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 1 minute. Add in the Nopales and Serrano Pepper (or whatever pepper you choose). The Nopales will start to ooze a bit, keep cooking until that liquid is mostly gone (about 3-4 minutes). Add in the eggs and tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. Stir in the cilantro, salt, and pepper and serve warm!

2.  Here is proof that I was born and raised in the South. I swear, if we can eat it, we will find a way to fry it. But this recipe is soooooo good I couldn't leave it out! I use all gluten-free flour (my favorite is Namaste Foods Gluten Free Organic Perfect Flour Blend), but it's also super good with a mixture of corn meal and flour. I also like to use coconut oil to deep fry with, it doesn't break down as much at the higher temperature making it a little bit healthier. This is kind of like frying a grilled cheese, it's great comfort food and pairs well with tomato soup!

Stuffed Nopales

6 Nopal Pads, cleaned and blanched
Oaxacan Cheese (or Mozzarella)
3 Eggs
2 cups Milk
1¼ lb Flour, sifted
Salt and Pepper to taste
Coconut Oil (or whatever oil you want to use for frying)

     For the batter, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the milk while wisking. Whisk until mixture is smooth, then add in your eggs one at a time. Once the batter is mixed well and smooth, cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
     After cleaning your Nopales, pair them together with close to the same size pads per pair. If needed, trim them to equal sizes and shapes. Use them to make “sandwiches” with the cheese slices by layering one Nopal, then some cheese, then a second Nopal. Secure them with toothpicks.
     In a deep skillet, sauce pan, or deep fryer, place enough oil to cover your Nopal sandwiches (one at a time). Bring the oil to a boil. Dip each sandwich into the batter, making sure to cover them well (optionally, if you're having problems getting the batter to stick you can dredge them in flour first), and place them in the boiling oil. Fry them until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place them on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Try to remove the toothpicks before eating.
     Enjoy them, while hot, with Salsa and/or Guacamole!

3.  Speaking of guacamole. I just LOVE avocados, and any excuse to use them is a good one! So of course I had to make some guacamole with Nopales. This version is a little more work because I grill the Nopal, but if you want to skip that step, you can just blanch them to get rid of some of the goo. I also happen to collect cast iron, so I am lucky enough to have a stove top grill (like this one) that I can use which makes this recipe much easier.

Grilled Cactus Guacamole

1 Nopal Pad, cleaned
2-3 ripe Avocados
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
½ a medium Red Onion, diced
1-2 fresh Jalapenos, seeded and diced (or Serrano for a little more heat)
a little less than ¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder to taste

     After cleaning the Nopal, brush it with a little olive oil. Heat up your grill and place the Nopal on the grill to cook. It should take about 20 minutes per side, but if you want a little extra of that grilled taste, you can cook it a little longer. Also, you can toss your peppers on the grill too, before dicing them.
     Cut your avocados in half and scoop them out. Mash them up with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. After grilling your Nopal, and allowing it to cool, dice it up and combine it with all the other ingredients. Mix well. Chill for 15 minutes and serve cold.

4.  What's better on a hot day than indulging in a fruit sorbet? Well, Prickly Pears make a great sorbet. Be sure to use a real ice cream maker (like this one) for this recipe though, if you freeze it and then blend it later, the chunks won't get as smooth and you'll miss out on the awesomeness that is the smooth texture of this sorbet.

Prickly Pear Sorbet

7-8 ripe Prickly Pears
1 cup Water
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
½ cup (or a little more) Sugar

     In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. While you're waiting for this, cut the Prickly Pears in half and scoop out the insides, being very careful to avoid the irritating hairs and spines on the outside. Pulse the pulp in a blender for a moment to separate out the seeds. Strain this through a sieve to fully remove those seeds. Once the sugar mixture is cool, add in all the remaining ingredients, including your strained puree. Place this mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
     Once the mixture is chilled, set up your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture, following your factory settings. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for later. If you put it in the freezer, take it out of the freezer before serving to let it soften enough to be able to stir it with spatula and bring back the smooth, velvety consistency.

5.  I have been working in the hospitality industry most of my adult life, and a good majority of that work has been behind a bar. I love mixing new drinks and creating amazing cocktails. So when I heard that Nopals could be juiced, I decided that I was going to make it my next cocktail goal to create a Cactus Margarita. Well, I ended up creating 2! The first one is from the cactus pads, the second is using the fruit. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Nopal Margarita

For the Nopal Lime Mix:
2 Nopal Pads, cleaned and diced
2 cups Water
½ cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 3 Limes (6 tsp Lime Juice)
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
2 oz Nopal Lime Mix

     To make the Nopal Lime Mix, combine the Nopal pads, water, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir while boiling until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 1 hour. When the hour is up, strain out about half of the cactus and put the syrup into a food processor. Add in lime juice and zest, blend until smooth.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, and 2 oz of the Nopal Lime Mix. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, and 8 oz of the Mix. I also like to use the Nopal Cactus Pieces (from making the Mix) as a garnish.

Prickly Pear Margarita

For the Prickly Pear Syrup:
1 lb Prickly Pears
1 cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
.5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup
1.5 oz Lime Juice

     To make the syrup, cut each prickly pear in half and scoop out the insides (be careful of the irritating hairs and spines on the outside of the fruit). Combine the fruit and sugar in a pot. Put just enough water in the pot to cover everything and bring the contents to a boil over medium-high heat, stiring and mashing the fruit as it boils. When the sugar is dissolved, cover and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, or until it's cool. Add in the zest and lime juice, give it a good stir, then strain out the pulp and seeds.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, .5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup, and 1.5 oz of Lime Juice. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt or sugar for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, 2 oz Syrup, and 6 oz of Lime Juice.

     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!

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