Nopales aka cactus can be bought fresh in paddles which requires de-prickling (is that a word?!), ready to use and canned. Yesterday afternoon I went to Fiesta (a local grocery store in Austin) and picked up a bag of ready to use freshly cut nopales unknowing what the fuck I was going to do with them.
Nopales have a special slimy place in my heart. They remind me of the days where Chaos in Tejas was something I looked forward to every summer. 100 degree heat, lots of punk bands from around the world and all my best friends in one city for a week. We’d spend the days at the green belt illegally drinking shitty lone star and floating in the springs (and dodging snakes and frat bros alike) before heading to Curra’s for avocado margaritas and food. One of Curra’s veg-friendly dishes are their nopale tacos. A mix of nopales, soyrizo and peppers in a fluffy white flour tortilla served with refried beans and like 20000 margaritas.
I sat down on my couch, queued up Limpwrist and thought about the first time I stage dove in a huge crowd to “I love Hardcore Boys” at age 16 some Chaos in Tejas years ago. Deciding I am going to attempt to prepare nopales two ways in the amount of time it takes me to listen to the entire Limpwrist discography. 41 songs in 34 1/2 minutes.
Up first, tacos de nopales.
Start by dicing 1 white onion, 4-5 cloves of garlic, 1 deseeded jalapeño, 1/2 of a red bell pepper and 1/2 package of tempeh. The goal here is to finely dice the tempeh so it resembles ground “meat”. Dice all your shit up. Add 1/2 of the diced garlic and onion to a pan with a little oil. Sauté for 2-3 minutes then add the tempeh and 1/2 of the jalapeño. This is where shit gets blurry because I was already 4-5 songs in and beginning to slam all over the kitchen with my dogs – I added a cup of fresh chopped nopales and a shitload of spices: some cumin, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, turmeric, fresh ground salt and pepper….probably some other stuff I am forgetting but c’mon, I don’t need to tell ya’ll how to season, do I? Just taste and season, taste and season more. So anyway, I seasoned the shit out of all that then added 3-4 tablespoons of fresh salsa I had made a prior (feel free to use store bought or just skip this step if you don’t have any) and the diced bell pepper. Cook until nopales look a little burnt. Don’t freak out if they look sorta slimy, the heat will cook it out. Taste and set aside.
Onto nopales tostadas!
IN THE SAME PAN, add the remaining onion, garlic and a tiny amount of oil and sauté. While that’s cooking, open a can of black or pinto beans (I used black), drain, rinse and add to a pot with a little bit of water. Cook your beans as you would and go back to your onion and garlic. Add about a cup of fresh cut nopales, the rest of your jalapeño and cook.
Set your oven to 400 degrees, grab some corn tortillas and put them on a cookie sheet (covered in parchment paper). Rub a little oil each side and sprinkle salt. Check on your nopales and take some aggression out on your beans by smashing the hell out of them with a potato masher or fork and stir. I added spices to my beans such as nutritional yeast, cumin and a dash of hot sauce. You can do this too or just leave them be. By this time, your oven should be ready to roll. Add your corn tortillas to the oven and cook on each side for a couple minutes or until crispy. Warm some corn tortillas on your stove (if it’s gas – I don’t know how else you do this, this is the way my grandma taught me.) and get ready to fuckin mossshhhhhhh. Your second batch of nopales should be done, so now to assemble.
For the tacos, I just spoon a little of the tempeh & nopale mixture into a warm corn tortilla and added some grated Chao cheez, cilantro and a couple lime wedges. For the tostadas, I start with a crispy baked tortilla topped with a thin layer of beans then nopales + onion mixture followed by toppings! Raw veggies such as shredded kale, raw onion, tomato, cilantro and avocado.
So if you’re wondering, I fucking did it (but I kind of cheated). I already had shredded kale, a little diced onion, and cilantro ready to go.