Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Good Paddling

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.


Chilebrown said...

My oh My, There were a lot of ingredients. Did your Cactus slime?

cookiecrumb said...

Chilebrown: It's true, there were a lot of ingredients.
It's like when you're making a salad, and you keep throwing stuff in. "Yeah, that'll work. Keep 'em coming."
Totally the cactus slimed, but the roasting technique causes the slime to dry up. Very edible. 20 minutes in the 375º oven. A little stir halfway through.

Anita said...

You know who's Señor Nopales? Steve at Rancho Gordo. I bet he could answer all of your cactus queries. :D

Dagny said...

Another recipe for my mother.

Rev. Biggles said...

Neat, I did nopales in my Lentils & Crepinette stew the other day. Odd combination, but they're still fantastic. I just have too much left ...

Tea said...


Can I come over for lunch?

cookiecrumb said...

Anita: Well, he would be, wouldn't he? Mr. Southwest, and all. Yes, a good resource. Thanks.

Dagny: She would like this? Cool. She's got great access to cactus, yes? :D

Rev. Giggles: (OK, that was a typo but I'm keepin' it.)
Hum! That does sound like an odd combination. Crepinettes in your stew? You must of been cleaning out the fridge. I'm glad it came out good. I'm thrilled that you were eating nopales.
Let's go on a cactus hunt!

Tea: We're still thinking about it (oh, yeah, it's all et up). But we're thinking about how else to use nopalitos. In a salsa on fish. In a souffle, dammit. In a lentils and crepinette stew. No.
OK, right now I'm stuck on eggs and nopalitos...

Lannae said...

Congratulations on the TOMATO! WoW! How wonderful to eat your 1st tomato from you new home. Fantastic! So, what are you going to make with the rest of the tomatoes to come this summer?

dancingmorganmouse said...

You eat cactus? Wow!
That first tomato of the season is always a special one isn't it?

cookiecrumb said...

Lannae: It was a solemn, yet joyous, occasion, let me tell you! I ate half and Cranky ate half. We are literally watching them ripen on the vine now, over the course of a few hours. Today I think there will be three more.
My plans? Lots of fresh tomato gobbling, of course, but also some oven-roasted tomato sauce for the freezer, and I'm thinking of sun-drying some, too.

DMM: Yes, I should have described how it tastes. It's a little, uh, slimy (but most of that evaporates in the oven), and the flavor is bright and lemony.
Yay, yes, my first tomato. :)

Catherine said...

that looks very good to me right now! congrats on your tom.

I really liked nopales. you're reminding me to try it again.

cookiecrumb said...

Catherine: We went back and bought more! (At Whole Foods, keep it a secret, eh?) Gonna think up lotsa new uses. You have any ideas I should know about?

Anonymous said...

I have been lost in food blog land for the past week. Where have you been. What a breath of fresh air. Just when I was wondering what a blogger would do to differentiate herself, along you came. The way you write is so refreshingly natural. I wish you lived next door. In summer I could open up the glass doors and hear you laughing.

All the best to you and Cranky.


cookiecrumb said...

Dear Anonymous! Wow, such a nice compliment. Now I'm going to have to work unnaturally hard at being natural and funny.
Thank you.