Produce Superstars: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With These Nopales Cactus Enchiladas

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Enchiladas, in all their glorious variety, are so well known and well liked here in California, we scarcely think of them as Mexican anymore. They’ve become, like pizza,  part of our native cuisine. In this recipe, I deconstruct the enchilada, and put it back together a little differently. Fundamentally, an enchilada is a tortilla which has been “chili-ied,” which is to say, flavored in some way with chiles. In this version, rather than stuffing, rolling and baking the tortillas, we simply warm the tortillas, spoon on a layer of filling, and sauce them, eliminating the baking, which often leads to everything being overcooked.

As for the ingredients, am I asking you to eat cactus? Yes indeed, and quite tasty it is. The part you’re going to eat is the leaf pad of the nopale (prickly pear cactus), a widely-grown commercial crop in Mexico. If your supermarket doesn’t stock nopales, shop where your Mexican-American neighbors shop. You will find them whole (as in the photo below), or prepped (diced, with the little thorns already removed). If you find only the whole cactus leaves, don’t fret. They can be easily prepped: using a kitchen towel, hold the nopale with one hand, and with the other hand scrape away the thorns with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. High in vitamins and minerals, nopales do best with light cooking, a quick sauté or brief time on a grill (overcooking can lead to sliminess). After the jump, I offer you my introduction to cactus cuisine: nopale-mushroom-tempeh enchiladas with salsa ranchera.


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