Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to cook Prickly Pear

The following information is from Desert USA, for Lisa at Flying Colors, when she asked how I might cook a Prickly Pear cactus pad. This site is very informative. I will be making one of these recipes in the near future, with a full review to follow here! Thanks for asking, Lisa!!!
Nopales is the Spanish name for Prickly Pear Cactus pads. Prickly Pear Cactus are members of the Opuntia genus, and produce both nopales, a vegetable, and tuna, a fruit.

Native Americans used Nopales to poultice bruises and dress wounds. They also boiled and crushed the pads, then added the sticky juice to mortar or whitewash to increase adhesiveness.

Nopales have been more popular as a food source in Mexico for hundreds of years. Recently, they have gained increasing popularity in the United States as well.

As a vegetable, Nopales can be used in salads, casseroles, soups, grilled and prepared in a variety of other ways. Nopales are somewhat tart and have a green bean- or asparagus -like flavor.

Nopales are often compared to Okra, because of the sticky substance they release when cooked. This should be rinsed off before serving or before further preparation as an ingredient.

Nopales can be purchased year-round in Mexican markets and some grocery stores in the U.S. They can also easily be harvested from your own Prickly Pear Cactus growing on your property.

Selection & Preparation
Select small or medium sized, firm pads. Make sure the pads you select are not wrinkled, soggy or too soft. These pads (or paddles) are modified branches, which range in color from pale to dark green. They also contain sharp, thorny needles, which are modified leaves.

These, thorny needles must be removed with a knife or vegetable peeler before cooking. Remove any nodules, the thick stem, and trim the edges off of the pads as well. Make sure you wear rubber or leather gloves when handling Nopales to avoid injury from the thorny needles.

Wash thoroughly and follow the recipe instructions below. Nopales can be tightly wrapped and stored in a refrigerator for one to two weeks.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size 1 cup raw (142g)
Calories 60 Calories from Fat 10
Amount Per Serving % daily value
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars NA
Protein 1g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 32%
Calcium 8%
Iron 2%

Nopales on The Grill

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, they are ready for the grill. Cook each pad for approximately 10 to 12 minutes on each side. While grilling, brush each side of the cactus pad with olive oil or a flavored oil of your choice. Pepper or garlic-flavored oil are often used on grilled Nopales.

Scrambled Nopales

1 or 2 cactus pads
8 Eggs
1/4 lb. of cheese (your choice)
salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, slice into bite-size pieces. Sauté the sliced pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl; add shredded cheese and the sautéed cactus pieces. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet and scramble. Serve warm with salt and pepper to taste.

Nopales Rellenos (Stuffed Cactus Pads)

12 tender cactus pads
3 cups of water
6 slices of Machego or Panela cheese
1/4 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 clove of garlic
Salt to taste
1/2 cup of flour
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil
1 can of tomato sauce (12 ounces)
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the ads, boil in 3 cups of water with the garlic, onion, and salt. Drain.

On each of 6 cactus pads place a slice of cheese and 3 to 4 pieces of onion. Top with another cactus pad, secure with wooden toothpicks and coat with flour.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add the yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes more to create a batter.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, dip the stuffed cactus pads into the egg batter and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Serve drenched with cooked tomato sauce.

Nopales Salsa

1 lb. cleaned cactus pads
1/2 lb. tomatillos
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves
2 poblano peppers
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 tsp.of fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp.of cumin
2 Tbs. cilantro
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, grill for about 7 minutes on each side. Slice the grilled pads into strips. Place tomatillos, cubed onions and garlic in a baking dish, then cook in a 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Roast poblanos on grill or under the broiler, then peel them and remove the seeds. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until well chopped. A little water may be needed to moisten the salsa. Serve chilled with chips or use to season tacos, burritos or other Mexican dishes.

Nopales Salad

2.2 lbs. Nopales (cactus pads)
1 onion, halved
4 cups water
2 Tbs. salt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 green chiles - serrano or jalapeno - chopped
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, chop into bite-size pieces. Place the chopped Nopales into a pan with the 4 cups of water, halved onion and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain Nopales and combine with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. This dish gets better if you let is sit a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 4 or more.


Ashraf shreif said...

wow...thank you Julie
i will cooking it

My LIttle Family: said...

Thank you for posting Noodles! Her mama is so distraught. I hope she returns home for christmas

Claude said...

great recipes... We usually only use the pads that are new growth, they're much more tender. The Napales you buy in the store are a variety of O. ficus indica, and aren't winter hardy here, but if you root 3 or 4 of them over the winter, they're very quick growing and you'll have enough to use all next summer until the frost hits... and possibly enough to cut into strips and can for the winter. There is some evidence that Prickly pear pads are good for people with diabetes also...

Julie said...

Claude- yes, they are doing a lot of research on use of cactus for diabetes! Very encouraging! At this point I would recommend eating it regularly to assist in sugar regulation! If I were diabetic I would definately try it while monitoring my blood sugar readings, and work with the doctor as well (in case you need to lower your insulin or pills)!!!

Teri C said...

Wow, you went above and beyond the call of duty here. Great post!

We went to a demonstration at Saguaro national Park and learned how to cook (and eat) the napolitos and let me say, they are yummy!!

marianne said...

Wonderful info Julie!
This year I ate my first Prickly pear fruit!
So this one is maybe for next year.........
Have a great day!

Serena said...

Thanks for the great info, Julie! Very interesting ~

My LIttle Family: said...

Julie - thanks for the nice words on my blog. Just curious, did you read my flamingo story from a couple days ago? I was expecting comments for floridians, LOL.

Bobbie Lynn said...

I love Nopales especially in scrabbled eggs. Thanks for the info and recipes too.

Bobbie Lynn said...

Thank you for your kind words on my blog. Just this morning I was helping my Daughter scrap off the frost that was on the car. We southern Californians are not use to this, but I do enjoy it because we do not always get winter weather like most of the country does. I would like to send you and your family a very Merry Christmas and good health and cheer for the New Year.

Aiyana said...

It's easier to buy nopales at the supermarket! In Arizona, it's fairly easy to get them, and it's also easy to order dishes in some places that include them. I guess I'm just getting lazier as I get older, but preparing nopales is just too much work!

Rick said...

I bought a small spineless prickley pear (oxymoron, I suppose). I am going to try that. It doesn't have much flavor raw so when it grows more I will prepare it . Do you know if there is a difference in taste or texture.
Thanks Rick

Julie said...

Rick- Hello! I do not know about any taste differences...I have only tasted a spineless variety...but I will ask the readers of my blog if they know! I thought they are quite mild in taste...but you will doctor them up with some seasoning!!! I am looking at planting a bunch of fallen pads )from a couple of trees near where I live), in my backyard and see if I can really get them going as a food source. I think they could come in handy in this economy, even if used as nothing more than a filler or additive to stretch the food budget!