Spice in the Kitchen: Prickly Pear Cactus Salad

I like to peruse the section of the farmer's market that just seems like it is not meant for locals. Lots of herbs, roots and strange things like cactus are offered for sale. I had seen the cactus before and wonder what on earth it was used in. Then, a woman in my pottery class told me she ate it for dinner. "How do you prepare it?" I asked. "You simply take off the spikes and sauté sliced pieces in olive oil." So, I decided to finally buy one. After researching, I found out that 1) it was a prickly pear, 2) there are several ways to prepare it and 3) it's actually really good for you, specially if you have digestive issues. Since I was going to make the recipe for the plantain quesadillas I posted before, I decided something raw was a good side dish, so I went with a cactus salad. The unprepared cactus tastes like a cross between a green pepper, aloe and a snap pea. The salad is light and refreshing and quite tasty (once you work your way past the cactus goo). If anyone knows how to make it less oozy-gooey, please let me in on the secret.

Prickly Pear Cactus Salad Recipe (vegan, raw, gluten-free)
serves 2-4

  • 1 prickly pear pad de-pricked, and cut into chunks (wash several times after cut to remove gel)
  • 1 green pepper cut into chunks
  • 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup of corn (sweet organic is best)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped jalapenos (if you don't want the heat, get bottled, mild pickled ones)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2-1 TB Spanish olive oil
  • 1/2 TB raw agave nectar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all veggies in a bowl.
  2. Squeeze lemon juice over veggies. Then add olive oil, agave, salt and pepper.
  3. Mix well and let sit in fridge to chill for a 1/2 hour or so.

And here is what I served the salad with, plantain quesadillas (surprisingly easy to make). My addition to the recipe would be 1/2 TB of olive oil and 1 tsp of salt to the plantain dough. They were super yummy!

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