This recipe contains no meat whatsoever and due to that I have no idea why I like it. A vegitarian I am not, not even close. Hell I usually don’t consider something a meal if it doesn’t contain meat. And yet these tacos are made of cactus and other vegetables with nary a bit of meat in the ingredients. Nopales are the large paddle shaped pads of the prickly pear cactus. They are covered with spines and the prep can be a pain in the ass but it’s totally worth it. Luckily for me I live in Texas and there are enough Supermercado Gigantes around that I can find nopales already cleaned. If you can’t, don’t worry I’m including the directions here. Enough rambling, let’s make with the tacos…
3-4 fresh nopales
2-3 fresh jalapenos
1 large onion
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp cooking oil
2 red bell peppers
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
Salt (to taste)
Corn tortillas (homemade is best, always)
Queso Cotija de Montaña
Nopales: If you’re a Gringo like me and haven’t handled cactus pads a lot you might want to wear clean rubber gloves (the dishwashing variety for this part!
Rinse the nopales under cold running water. Now, you see those bumps all over the Nopales? Remove every last one with either a vegetable peeler or a small knife. Don’t skin the whole pad, just removed all the bumps. When you’re done you should have a stack of nice, smooth pads. Now cut off the thick base and about a quarter inch around the edges. Throw these parts away and then slice the pads into about a quarter inch thick strips.
Peppers and chiles: Clean and seed the jalapenos and bell peppers. Slice these about the same as you did with the nopales
Tomatoes: Seed the tomatoes and dice
Garlic and onions: Peel and dice
Avocado: Peel, seed, and slice
Once you have everything all sliced and diced grab a large skillet with a lid. Heat half your cooking oil on medium-high until it’s nice and hot. Drop in your nopales and give them a good shake or four of salt. Stir this for two to three minutes then drop your heat to medium and put a lid on your skillet. Let this simmer for about twenty minutes. During this time the nopales will exude a gelatinous substance. The long simmer is cooking this out and drying it up. If there’s still some left after twenty minutes just cook a little longer.
Once the nolapes are done take them out and put them in a bowl. Put the rest of your cooking oil in the skillet and bring the heat up to medium-high. Drop in the rest of your ingredients and give them a liberal shake of salt and cook until the onions are clear and the bell pepper is soft but not mushy. Drop the cooked nopales back in to the skillet and stir until everything is hot.
Serve while hot on warm corn tortillas with the sliced avocado and sprinkled with queso Cotija de Montaña. I have been told that a pinch of fresh shredded cilantro is also good on these but since I can’t taste cilantro without being ill I don’t ever include it in my recipes but I’m giving it an honorable mention on this one.