Soups and Salads — By Ben on 02 September 2009
Cactus salad

Cactus salad

I can’t believe September is already here. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. In one hand I love the idea that fall (my favorite season of the year) is just around the corner. But in the other hand, I’ve been enjoying this mild summer a lot. This year I discovered my love for running (I used to hate it) and how much fun summer can really be. The arrival of September also reminds me how fast time passes and before we realized it, the holidays are going to be here and a new year shortly after, should I go on?

But September means something else, this is the month when Mexico celebrates the declaration of Independence from the Spanish crown, 199 years ago. To celebrate el mes patrio (patriotic month) I’ll be posting recipes of Mexican food and Mexican inspired food all this month. I started earlier with the albondigas recipe of my last post and I want to continue today with some ingredients that perfectly represent Mexican cuisine.

nopales

Legend has it that the Mexica (pronounced [me???i?ka?]) people (a tribe that was later part of the Aztec Empire) left their original land in search of a new home. There was a prophecy that said that the new city should be founded on the spot where they found an eagle devouring a serpent while perch atop a cactus. They found this location in 1325 on a small swampy island in Lake Texcoco in the Anahuac Valley.

They founded their new city among hostile tribes that saw them as invaders. But in a period of approximately 70 years, Mexicas had built an empire that would become the greatest of Mesoamerica, being The Great Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) the center and heart of the Aztec Empire.

579px-Coat_of_arms_of_Mexico.svg

The nopal, therefore, is a symbol that identifies the Mexican culture of the past and present. It forms part of the Coat of Arms of Mexico embedded in the white stripe (symbol of Union) of the Mexican flag. Nopal is also a fundamental ingredient of Mexican cuisine. In the past I’ve written about this ingredient and shared the recipe for a nopal frittata. For this salad I added some other Mexican ingredients: tunas (the fruit of the nopal), avocadoes and jicamas.

Tunas

Cactus Salad

The ingredients:

  • 2 cups cleaned and cubed nopalitos
  • 1 jicama, julienned
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small tomato, cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red tuna fruit
  • 1 green tuna fruit
  • 2 TBSP cilantro, chopped
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • salt to taste

The how-to:

  1. Cook nopalitos in boiling water for 5-7 minutes and drain. Let them cool down.
  2. In a large bowl mix nopalitos, jicama, avocado, tomato, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice and salt.
  3. Peel tunas and sliced them widthwise. Use the round slices to garnish the salad. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

The afterthoughts:

  • Some people say that nopalitos is an acquired taste. I remember I wasn’t a big fan of them when I was a kid, but I was that way with most vegetables. The sweet addition of the tuna fruit and tomatoes complement the nopalitos flavor and texture well. When you make this salad try to eat it all right away. Stored cooked nopalitos develop a slimy texture that is not very appealing.

Cactus salad

¡Buen provecho!

Important note: The Homemade Challenge is back this month. The theme, as you probably already guessed is Mexican cuisine. I will post more details about it very soon.

This post is my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte this time around.

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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(19) Readers Comments

  1. Pingback: Twitted by BenTheCook

  2. Can't wait for more of your authentic recipes Ben! Ive never tried nopalitos before…am very curious after reading this!

  3. The salad looks as beautiful as the picture….I hope it does make a sense ;-)
    It's always an enjoyment for me to read your post…

    Angie's Recipes

  4. Very cool! Never tried it but I would love to find it and give it a shot! :)

  5. Gorgeous photos. I keep on hoping that magically I'll discover that I like running…alas, it hasn't happened yet.
    I bought a prickly pear for the first time last week and it's still sitting in my fridge. I'm terrified of cleaning it and I've never tasted one.

  6. Ben, I just can't get over your photography these days. This should be your career. Seriously.

  7. We call them prickly pears here and I used it in a salad too last year some time. I love the purple variety!!!

  8. Salad looks delightful!

  9. Is this the same as prickly pears? They are also popular in Italy actually, especially in the more arid regions like Sicily where they grow wild. The purple ones are so beautifu!l!

  10. OMG! I did not know you can eat cactus!!! I wanna try to see how it tastes : ) Thanks for showcasing this!

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