Cactus leaf salad recipe

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Nopales, or cactus pads, have been part of Mexican cuisine for centuries, particularly in the arid north where cactus have long helped produce food and water for the people of this area. Cactus have a bit
of a mucilage texture that will thicken soups or stews much like okra but this is undesirable in a salad, and thus they need to be rinsed after cooking to remove this.

  • Yield: 10 portions (6 ounces/portion)

Ingredients

For Preparing the Nopales
  • 2 lbs Nopales (the smaller, the better)
  • 8 oz Yellow Onion, sliced thin
  • 0.5 oz Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Jalapeño, minced
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Mexican Oregano
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda (or husks from 1 lb of tomatillos)
For Assembling the Salad
  • Nopales, diced medium
  • 8 oz Yellow Onion, shaved very thin (use a mandoline or slicer)
  • 1 tsp Mexican Oregano
  • 2 Tbsp Jalapeño, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2 oz Corn Oil (substitute light olive oil, if this is unavailable)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 lb Ripe Tomatoes, diced medium
  • 1 cup Cilantro, chopped (about ¼ bunch)
  • 2 Ripe Avocados, sliced thin
  • 8 oz Queso Fresco, crumbled
  • Salt, to taste
How to Make It
  1. Clean the nopales by taking off the spines (if they aren’t removed already) and, using a peeler, peel the tough eyes (the spots where the spines were).
  2. Place the nopales, onions, garlic, jalapeño, salt, Mexican oregano, and baking soda (or tomatillo husks) in an appropriately sized pan or pot, and cover with water.
  3. Simmer the nopales over a medium flame until they become tender (about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the nopales).
  4. Remove the pan or pot from heat, and then remove the nopales from the water; place the nopales under cold running water to remove the mucilage liquid released. At this point, the nopales are ready to be cut for the salad.
  5. For Assembling the Salad
  6. In a bowl, combine the diced nopales, shaved onion, Mexican oregano, jalapeño, lime juice, salt, and corn oil; mix thoroughly and set aside for at least 30 minutes so that ingredients can marinate.
  7. When ready for service, toss diced tomato and cilantro with the marinated salad ingredients.
  8. Adjust seasoning of salad; plate with a few slices of avocado on the base of each plate, topped with mixed salad, and finished with more avocado slices and crumbled queso fresco.
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