Ouch!!! Nopalitos with Corn and Red Chile

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

You really can’t eat that!! Oh yes you can and you will love it, too.

© REMCooks.com
© REMCooks.com

Yes, this is a cactus plant. Kinda pretty isn’t it but would you be the first person to eat one? I’m always curious what prompts someone to eat a plant or fruit for the first time. Fruits are a little easier to understand but why in the world would you risk bodily injury to eat a cactus?? These things have serious spines and they hurt when you accidentally bump into one. Obviously, no one would bump into one of these on purpose. 😮

This is what we call nopal cactus. Nopal is the Mexican name for the Opuntia cacti, what most people know as Prickly Pear.  It refers to both the plant and the paddles. They are everywhere in the Southwest and West United States and is a very invasive species, kinda like a weed. Because of their hardiness and low maintenance, it’s not uncommon to see them in landscaping. In fact, the nopal in the photos is an 8 year old nopal at a business 1/2 mile from the house. When I requested permission to take photos they also told me I could come harvest the fruit later this summer. SCORE!!!!! 🙂

In Mexico, there are over one hundred known species of Nopal. In fact, it’s a common ingredient in numerous Mexican cuisine dishes. Previously, I posted a Sorbete de Tuna Roja (Red Prickly Pear Sorbet) to show you one means of cooking nopal. Nopal, however can be cooked in other ways and not just the fruit. Indeed, the paddles themselves are edible as are the flowers. The nopal pads can be eaten raw or cooked, used in marmalades, soups stews and salads. This post is for my blogging buddy Conor who was curious if you really could eat the paddles. Well, Conor (and the rest of you) you absolutely can. Not surprisingly, it has chiles 😉 and this is what we did.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp oil, split
  • 3 lbs fresh nopales, rinsed, cleaned and diced
  • 1 sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 oz red chiles, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn (roughly 3 ears)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Instruction

First thing first, clean the cactus paddles of their spines.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com – Notice how i let Baby Lady do this particularly dangerous task???

Once the paddles are cleaned, cut them into squares. Add 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

Add the diced nopales.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

Notice the nopales are slimy kinda like okra? The trick to nopales is to cook them long enough to get rid of the slime.  This is done one of a couple of ways. You can boil them or you can sauté them like in this recipe. Stir the nopales for a couple of minutes and let them sauté.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

Place the lid on

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

reduce the heat to medium and let the nopales cook and sweat for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. You will notice the nopales’ slimy liquid will have begun to dry out.

Take off the lid, add salt,

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

stir and make sure most of the liquid has dried up; if it hasn’t, let them cook for a couple more minutes until it does.

When the slimy liquid has dried, pour in the rest of the oil.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com – I’m eyeballing it.

Now, add the onion

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

the garlic

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

the red chiles

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com – Baby Lady came back to help with the photos.

and corn.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

Mix well and let it cook for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the lime juice.

© 2015 REMCooks.com
© 2015 REMCooks.com

Stir and cook covered for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and adjust for salt, if needed.

Put in a nice serving bowl.

NOPALITOS WITH CORN AND RED CHILE

Serve and enjoy. We most definitely did and you will, too. 🙂

NOPALITOS WITH CORN AND RED CHILE

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Ouch!!! Nopalitos with Corn and Red Chile”

  1. A REM Cooks classic. I have a picture in my mind of a besuited Legal Eagle negotiating with a groundsman for the fruit of the cactus. You didn’t reveal if you also got a bonus of the paddles, while negotiating.

    The dish looks intriguing as I can guess the flavours from all the other ingredients except the paddles.

    Great post Richard. You are back in the game!

    1. Thanks Conor. Sorry to ruin your image of me but no negotiating on this one. I went in to ask if I could take a few photos. We chatted about the plant, i.e. where did they get it, how old is it, etc.? She told me someone had come by the night before and harvested most of the pretty yellow flowers – they’re edible in addition to being pretty. Various people had told her different things you can do with the fruit, i.e. soap, tea, drinks, pies, etc. Asians apparently love cactus fruit something I didn’t know. It was then I asked her if she minded if I harvested some of the fruit when it was ripe – as you can tell it produces an abundance of fruit. She said sure, everyone else does. I was the first person to ever ask. 🙂

  2. Interesting post Richard though I won’t promise to make it! Prickly pear runs amok in Australia too, introduced by Sicilian immigrants in the 1950s. I’m pretty sure that they only eat the fruit.

    1. Hi Kathryn. Nopales (or nopalitos) taste similar to a green bean crossed with asparagus but with more acidity. They are a wonderful side. Baby Lady makes a warm salad with them that we will post one day.

      1. Thanks Richard, I’ve always wondered. It sounds delicious! Our local market that has a large stock of Mexican produce always has nopales in stock. Will have to try it some day just to freak out my family. I think with your recipe though with chiles and corn they would at least try it.

  3. Very nice, Richard, and just like Conor said: a REMCooks classic!
    Did you soak the chiles at all before adding them?
    I did see the paddles a few times in the produce department in the US, but never knew what to do with them. Especially with the spines and without Baby Lady around to do the dangerous work. I am curious what they taste like, so I will watch out for them. Sometimes the market I go to that caters to restaurants has exotic stuff.

    1. Thanks Stefan. We don’t soak the chiles. The warm nopales and lime help soften the chiles although we did cut them a little large and will make them smaller the next time. The nopales taste somewhat like a green bean crossed with an asparagus with a little citric acid thrown in for good measure. If you can find them, try them. If not, I will see if I can send you a few paddles. They last for a considerable amount of time and you can plant them although I doubt they would take the cold winters in the Netherlands. 😮

      1. Wouldn’t think they were frost proof, but then again neither is Houston. I think the humidity might be more of a problem, they’ll simply rot away I imagine. Hmmm, it could be interesting to prepare green beans with similar flavors.

Food for thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s