I love the taste of chili rellenos, those batter-dipped stuffed green chilies are a taste treat for breakfast or dinner. But did you know that the cactus pads “nopales” that we know are used for deep frying and as substitute for green chilies in other recipes, can also be eaten whole? Less the prickly spikes, of course.
Once prepared and assembled like a grilled cheese sandwich, the Nopales Rellenos is quite an interesting looking dish. Here’s a recipe you can try:
- 12 tender prickly pear cactus pads
- 2 quarts of water
- 1 clove of garlic
- salt and pepper
- 6 slices of Mexican or cheddar cheese
- 1 large white onion (thinly sliced)
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 1 (12-oz) can of tomato sauce
After removing the needles, peel the pads with a knife or potato peeler. Cut away any thick stems. The young cactus pads should be fairly tender when you pick them, be sure to wear gloves to avoid getting those needles imbedded in your skin.
Wash the pads and then place in 2 quarts of water, along with the garlic and seasonings. Boil for 10-15 minutes until tender but not mushy. The size of the pads will determine how long to boil them. Drain.
Place a slice of cheese on each of six cactus pads. Add two slices of onion and then top with another pad. Secure together with wooden toothpicks.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the yolks to the whites and beat for 2 additional minutes.
Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
These nopales are full of flavor so serve them with a cheese dipping sauce or mild salsa. So not only are these a savory change of fiesta flavor but they’re full of vitamins, too.