In Mexico, when you say nopales, Mexicans immediately think of good food. Either sautéed, grilled, and sometimes fried. Nopales means cactus leaves, and these are usually found in Mexican markets and in some specialized stores in Southeast Asia. Not many people know that succulents like cactus and CAL Farms Beautiful 36 of 2″ Assorted Succulents are not only great decorative pieces, but they are also edible and makes for salads, dips, salsa, and even soups.
Curious how this can be done? It is important to note that only the most learned in cooking should prepare a cactus recipe. Before actually grilling or sautéing the nopales, you have to make sure that the needles have been removed. Most nopales that you can purchase in grocery stores and ready and prepared for cooking. However, it would still be prudent of you to check if all needles and other prickly things on the cactus have already been removed. Move your hand on the leaf to feel that all areas are smooth.
1. Cactus Salsa
First, you need to preheat your griller or broiler. While it is preheating, place the cactus paddles, approximately 1 1/2 pounds, in a bowl and mix it with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Marinate the nopales in the mixture for at least 30 minutes before putting it on the griller. Turn the paddles to the other side once there are grill marks and the paddles have turned dark green. Set aside and let cool. You can cover it and chill it from two to four hours to overnight in the chiller. After which, you can slice the cactus in 1/2-inch pieces and combine them with about four diced Italian tomatoes, 1/2 diced onion, 1 diced and seeded chile, 2 bunches of chopped cilantro, and 1/2 cup finely grated Cotija cheese.
In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup red wine, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.
2. Cactus Soup
You can choose to use jarred nopales or you can make your own by pickling the cactus leaves or grilling them. First, pour one jar of Morelos cooking sauce and 3 cups of chicken broth in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer down to medium heat. Add 4 springs of chopped cilantro and 1 jar of nopales. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve this cactus soup with tortillas on the side and some diced avocados on top.
3. Nopales Tacos
Grill 3 to 4 nopales around 15 minutes in total. Make sure the grill marks are present and both sides are evenly grilled. Chop the cactus in 1/4-inch thick before seasoning it with some salt and pepper and a bit of lime juice. Afterwards, you can put it in a taco shell and top it with your favorite tomato salsa recipe, as well as guacamole. For the tomato salsa, you simply have to chop off tomatoes, onions, and mix them with cilantro, oregano, chiles, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. As for the guacamole, either you use something store bought or you can dice some avocados and mix it with jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.