Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nopales (prickly pear cactus pads) and Onion Saute


Do these look familiar?  They are nopales, also known as prickly pear cactus pads.  I am very familiar with seeing them on the side of the road all around the dessert that I live in.  But not in my kitchen!  These lovely and somewhat dangerous leaves (remove the spines first!!) appeared in my CSA box the other week.  I had no idea that they were edible, did you?  They said that they had a light, tart flavor like green beans and a crisp mucilaginous texture (think okra).  

I decided to saute them with some garlic and onions.  They had such a unique flavor that I wasn't sure how to describe it.  My husband, daughter and I decided that:

nopales = green beans + lemon + okra


Nopales and Onion Saute
Ingredients
2 nopales
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly slice
2-4 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Remove any additional spines or needles from nopales by scraping off with a knife. Cut into ½ inch pieces and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add chopped nopales and saute until nopales are slightly soft, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

In case you are curious about these prickly cactus pads here is some information I found online about them:

Health benefits of nopales 

  • Nopales are one of very low calorie vegetable. 100 g of fresh leaves provides just 16 calories. 
  • Its modified leaves (paddles) have many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can immensely benefit health. 
  • The succulent paddles are rich sources of non-carbohydrate polysaccharides like pectin, mucilage and hemicellulose, which help reduce LDL-cholesterol, diabetes, and weight reduction. This rich fiber and mucilaginous content aid in smooth pass through of digested food particles and relieve constipation condition. 
  • In addition, the juice extracted from these pads has been suggested to have immune-booster, and anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • Cactus pads feature moderate amounts of vitamin A with 100 g fresh pads provide about 457 IU of vitamin A, and 250 µg of ß-carotene. ß-carotene convert into vitamin-A inside the body. Studies found that vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in vegetables help to protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers. 
  • In addition, nopal pads contain small levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid those are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions. 
  • Fresh pads contain average levels of vitamin C. 100 g provides 9.3 mg or 15% of this vitamin. Vitamin C is a water-soluble, natural anti-oxidant, which helps the body protect from scurvy and offer resistance against infectious agents (boost immunity), and help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body. They contain small amounts of minerals, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

from http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/nopales.html

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