While not strictly vegetarians (not even loosely vegetarians, in fact), we’re always looking for ways to extend Meatless Mondays well into the week. Vegetarian tacos are usually a pretty easy way to do that, though for us, that generally means tofu or fish. In fact, cactus might not have occurred to if not for Jason Wyrick‘s entirely enticing dish in Vegan Tacos. We’re always looking for a reason to go to our favorite Mexican market, and the hunt for nopales is just the one we’ve been waiting for.
“Nopales are prickly pear cactus pads,” says Wyrick, a chef who used a vegan lifestyle to reverse his diabetes and change the way he ate and lived. “They take some care to work with properly, but when you do, they are amazing. They have just a little tang and a nice bright flavor. I usually find the fresh ones at a Mexican market. You can make these either in a pan or on the grill.”
Between this dish and the Wyrick’s many other variations on the vegan-taco theme, our Meatless Mondays (and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays…) are looking a lot more interesting.
- 2 cactus paddles or 3 cups sliced jarred nopales (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 12 (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas
- Green Salsa with Avocado (recipe follows)
- Pickled Jalapeños
- Queso Fresco or pepitas
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- If you are using fresh nopales, hold the cactus paddle with tongs so you don’t get thorns in your hands. Over the sink, scrape the cactus paddle with the back of a knife until all the spines are removed. If you have any doubt as to whether the tiny spines have been removed, you can cut away the nodes from which the spines protrude. Once all the spines are removed, trim away the outer rim of the cactus paddle, including the spot where the paddle was cut from the plant. Cut the paddle into strips about ½-inch wide and 3-inches long.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add the cactus strips and sauté them until they are partially blackened. Remove them from the heat and immediately sprinkle them with salt.
- Warm the tortillas. Fill the tortillas with nopales and any of the toppings.
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped white onion
- 6 large tomatillos, husked removed and quartered
- 1 chile verde or poblano chile, coarsely chopped
- 2 serrano chiles, stems removed (remove the seeds and veins to tone down the heat)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 avocado, pitted, flesh scooped out
- Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
From Vegan Tacos © 2014 by Jason Wyrick. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.