the appetizer:

Travel to New Mexico with the Santa Fe School of Cooking: Flavors of the Southwest by Susan Curtis and Nicole Curtis Ammerman, with recipes like Sopaipillas; Nopales & Golden Beet Salad; and Lamb Adovada with Chipotle Chile Sauce & Caramelized Corn.



Nopales Cactus & Golden Beet Salad

including Technique of Preparing Nopales

Serves 6

Nopales Cactus & Golden Beet Salad


Nopales, or fresh cactus, is the fleshy, paddle-shaped stem of the prickly pear cactus. All varieties of prickly pear are edible, but it is best to look for a medium-sized variety that is relatively spineless (this is probably what you would get in the United States anyway). What we see growing in the southwestern part of the United States are generally thick-skinned, lowgrowing varieties that are not particularly tasty. Nopales are very common in Mexico and are beginning to have more of a presence in the States, as they are very healthy.

For the best flavor, choose small- to medium-sized beets that are firm. Just before cooking, wash beets gently so as not to pierce the skin, which would result in the loss of color and nutrients. Peel the beets after they are cooked and cooled. The skin comes off very easily.

  • 4 medium-sized golden (or red) beets
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime-, lemon- or orange-flavored olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh nopal cactus paddles
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, cut into slivers

1. Place the beets in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-heat until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain, peel and cut beets into thin wedges while still warm. Dress lightly with white wine vinegar and flavored oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 450° F. Place oven racks at the middle and highest positions.

3. See Technique of Preparing Nopales (below).

4. Toss the cactus strips with the oil, salt and pepper, and place them on two foil-lined baking sheets in even layers. With one tray on each rack, roast for 20 to 25 minutes, switching the trays halfway through, until the edges of the strips are crisp and the color is drab green. The strips will have shrunken slightly and will be dry.

5. In a medium bowl, combine the nopal strips, beets and red onion. Drizzle with Marjoram Vinaigrette and let stand for 15 minutes to combine flavors. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Marjoram Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons lime-, lemon- or orange-flavored olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • Sugar to taste (optional)

Thoroughly combine ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Technique of Preparing Nopales

Preparing Nopales #1

1. Lay the nopal paddle on a flat surface. With a sharp knife, trim the base of the paddle.


Preparing Nopales #2

2. Trim around the outside edge of the paddle with the tip of the knife.


Preparing Nopales #3

3. Carefully slice the thorny nods from the trimmed nopal paddle.


Preparing Nopales #4

4. Clean nopal cactus paddle in water.


Preparing Nopales #5

5. Cut the cleaned cactus paddle into 1/2-inch slices, widthwise, or diagonally across the paddle.

  • from:
    Santa Fe School of Cooking: Flavors of the Southwest
  • by Susan Curtis and Nicole Curtis Ammerman
  • Gibbs Smith, 2008
  • $24.99, Paperback
  • ISBN-10: 1423604709
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423604709
  • Recipe reprinted by permission.

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