by Reba Ray
Fer years now, I’ve been curious about eatin’ cactus, but ever’ time I tried one, I end up tweezin’ spines out of my fingers fer hours. I sure wonder who needs a job bad enough to be the cactus paddle de-spiner! And some of you are probably wonderin’ who is hungry enough to eat cactus! Whereas it used to be a necessity among desert peoples, it’s just good ole fashion comfort food in the Southwest. Nopales, as they’re called in Mexican, are slimy little slithers of cactus leaf, pickled, spiced, and of course, de-spined. If you like pickles or okra, add these to yur shopping list. They can be served by ‘emselves, like you’d serve green beans, or you can use ‘em in soup or casseroles.
I love ‘em best on top of griddle corncakes, topped with sour cream and chipotle sauce. This short cut to Santa Fe is an adaptation from a recipe I kept without trying for more than 10 years because the dern thing wanted me to de-spine the cactus paddles! A jar of nopales got me over that hurdle and then I cut the time down even further by usin’ a griddlecake mix and prepared chipotle sauce. Now in 10 minutes, I can transport myself to Santa Fe with this incredibly authentic flavor of the Southwest. This is so simple I ought not to insult yur intelligence, but here we go:
Place skillet or griddle on medium heat while you mix up the cornbread batter accordin’ to package directions. You may need to add more liquid to get the consistency of waffle batter. Pour batter into pancake shapes on your lightly greased (or sprayed) griddle. Flip when holes form in the top and the bottom has solidified. (You know how to make pancakes, don’t ya?) Go ahead and make the whole batch, then eatin’ leftovers will be as easy as warmin’ everthing up.
While the griddlecakes are makin’, heat the nopales in a small saucepan until they boil.
To assemble, place two or three griddle cakes on a plate, heap drained nopales on top, then place a blob of sour cream on one side, a blob of chipotle on the other side. As you eat, pick up a bit of each in every bite.
If you’re eatin’ alone, you’ll have leftovers of everything that keep well in the fridge for a few more quick trips to Santa Fe. Reheat the griddlecakes in the toaster, griddle or microwave.