We came upon some fresh nopalitos — baby cactus paddles — at the store the other day, and had to grab a few. What with the rush of summer produce tumbling into the market, it was somehow refreshing to make a meal out of pedestrian, spindly, succulent cactus.
I don't know if baby cactus paddles have a season. I know I did successfully grow a couple of my own several years ago, by planting mature paddles in dirt and waiting for the babies to "hatch" out of the top of the mother paddle. But I don't remember what time of year it was.
Doesn't cactus grow all the time?
Anyway, it combines beautifully with fresh summer produce.
AND: Today I picked my first homegrown tomato, a pretty little Sungold of the cherry size.
So in its honor, and to celebrate the nopalitos and summer produce, we made a salad. Roasted nopalitos squares (make sure all the spines are trimmed off, then chop and toss with oil and salt), chopped tomatoes, chopped radishes, some minced onion, chopped green pepper of a twisty, mild and unnamed variety, corn off the cob (briefly microwaved in the husk, then shaved), salt, oil, a quick dusting of Mexican oregano, and a topping of crumbled cotija cheese, served over sparkling lettuce leaves.
There was something oddly satisfying about tasting the deepened, cooked flavor of the nopalitos in the presence of all that spectacularly fresh produce.
And, well, you know. It was good.