Last winter I was fortunate to be invited to the home of very good friends in the Los Angeles area. Being the consumate hosts that they were, we were on the go 24-7…and believe me there’s a lot to see. We covered ground from their beautiful hillside home in Long Beach to the expansive beaches of Ventura and the Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods nearby. We saw every museum and road side attraction from LA to Palm Springs ( date shake anyone?), ate primo Ethiopian food, sampled street tacos and crushed the food trucks ( Hey, there’s Cousin’s Maine Lobster Truck selling lobster rolls!)
But the sight that really piqued my interest was a street vendor selling cleaned nopales, or prickly pear cactus paddles. He was masterful in his cleaning technique as you’ll see in the video. You do not want to run into a stray cactus needle, trust me. It was easy as pie to follow his instructions for a grilled nopale and we ate them the same day. The nopales are distinctively tart, soft yet crunchy and make a perfect foil for fatty meats. Think about pairing with BBQ pork tacos, like a relish or vegetable side dish. I’ll bet they’d also make a good salsa verde.
Here’s the method:
Bring home your cactus paddles cleaned (ideally).
Mix up some avocado oil with good salt, fresh pepper and baste both sides of each paddle.
Get your grill medium hot and place paddles on the fire. Do not move them until they’re nicely and deeply scored, or marked, then flip them and score them again.
Grill until soft. Pull the nopales off the fire and let them rest a moment before slicing them . Finish with a good salt like Maldon and serve with almost any meat.