Nopalitos

Adolfo’s brother passed us his recipe for Nopalitos and I made them for lunch today. I have eaten this recipe before and I liked it quite a bit. However, people are always cautioning about cooking nopales, which are cactus pads from a certain kind of prickly pear cactus, nopalitos are literally “little nopales” – basically they are cut up. The caution is generally because nopales are famous for their babas, or drool. If not properly cooked they ooze a goo similar to that of okra. And, it is not at all appealing when your salad looks like it’s covered in drool.

Last week, when I went to the market, I noticed for the first time that they had nopales. The market, and to a lesser extent the supermarket, is very seasonal. I may not know the particular seasons for some things, but at the market it is stark – either it’s there, it’s not there, or it’s there and looks really bad (which is the case right now with the guavas, they are out of season and look horrible). So the nopales have appeared, and they look good, so it must be nopal season.

In case you are able to get nopales where you are, I translated the recipe below. Remember, it’s a salad, so measurements are difficult to come by and it’s up to your taste.

Nopalitos Salad

Wash the nopales and look them over carefully for needles. Cut into large dice. Add to salted water, which is boiling with a piece of an onion. Boil for 20 minutes. Drain and remove onion pieces.

Mix in a medium sized bowl: finely diced onion, finely diced chile serrano, chopped tomato and cilantro. Add the drained nopalitos and add to your taste: salt, olive oil and vinegar or lime juice. You may also add diced avocado. Finally on top sprinkle queso fresco, or other similar cheese.

You can refrigerate the salad before serving, because it is much better cold.

I would say that refrigeration is not an option, you must at least serve the salad at room temperature, so a quick refrigeration helps you get there faster. Of course, you can add the tomato, cheese and avocado right before serving. I used about 1 ½ – 2 cups of nopales, the onion was red for color and I used probably 2 T., one whole avocado, which I also believe is not optional, and a roma tomato. I also used probably 1 T. of lime juice and I seeded the chile.

It was quite successful and not at all drooly.

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