Nopales Pico de Gallo
My dad grew up in a little town in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, where you will find an abundant of nopales (cactus plant). They are everywhere! You may think he grew up eating nopales because that's almost all they had around their ranch. From the stories that he'd share with me when he was younger, the majority of what they ate were very simple meals like: frijoles de la olla (beans from a pot), nopales, tortillas, huevos (eggs) and rarely would eat meat. How ironic is it that my dad never liked eating nopales!? It's actually kind of funny!
However, my mom still makes nopales to this day because she very much enjoys eating them. I grew to love eating nopales and after I read about how nutritious they are, I needed to include them in my dishes more often.
I made them with my mom one day to figure out how exactly to cook them because they may seem a little tricky. Nopales have a crunchy texture to them, but slightly slimy. They can be simmered and boiled. Sauteed or grilled.
This recipe is my version of a pico de gallo, just added in the nopales.
1.5 lb fresh nopales cooked *thorns removed (makes about 2.5 cups)
3 roma tomatoes (center seeds removed), diced
Half white onion, diced
2 jalapeño (seeds removed), diced
1 serrano pepper (seeds removed), diced
2 tbsp lemon/ lime juice
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
Fresh cracked pepper
How to cook nopales?
You can find nopales pads with spines already removed you're local market.
This is how they should come in...
There are a couple ways to cook nopales. This is the way my mom prepares them and has taught me to do the same!
Check each pad for any missed spines/pricks. Clean and rinse each pad. Cut your nopales, so that they are in small bite size pieces (diced).
Boil them in salted water for about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. This cooks them through and it reduces/removes the majority of their excess water. They should turn dark tint shade of green when they’re ready.
Drain the water out from the pot. Then, add more water into the pot with the nopales to remove excess slime. Drain, once more and allow to dry completely.
At this point, they are ready to eat.
Directions for the Pico de Gallo
In a medium size bowl, add in the onion and lemon juice. Add a good pinch of salt and mix. Add the jalapeños, serrano peppers, nopales, cilantro, and tomatoes. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Taste. Add a pinch more salt if needed. Allow to chill for about 30 minutes.
Enjoy as a side accompaniment, topped on grilled chicken, as a dip for tortilla chips, or topped on tacos.