Yesterday, we showed you how to clean nopales and get them ready for use, but we realized that we only have one recipe posted for using nopales. It’s a good one, Nopales Con Papas y Más (cactus pad with potatoes and more), and one of our favorites. In fact, it’s about the only way we cook nopales, but, this time, we were out of potatoes, so we made up this dish, instead.
We used this as a quick dinner the same night we picked up our CSA produce, as we had a number of produce items we had to clean and prepare. Not only did we have the nopales to clean, we also had a bag of roasted green chilies and a bag of roasted green peppers; in each instance, we like to take the time to remove the tough skin and seed them. It just makes it easier later in the week. Partly because of that, this recipe starts with the nopales ready to go.
If you’re using fresh nopales, and haven’t prepped them by dicing and cooking in boiling water, do so now. Just place the pieces in a small saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, let boil a minute or two, then drain and rinse several times.
Procedure in detail:
Brown onions. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, shake to coat, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the onions start to brown and caramelize a bit. Don’t let them go so long that they start to blacken; a nice golden brown will bring out the flavors.
Add nopales and chilies. Stir in the garlic, nopales, green chilies, and cumin. Continue cooking, stirring often, for about 3-5 minutes. You may notice that some more sticky juice will leak from the cactus; that’s natural, and by the time everything is done, the juice will be broken down and no longer sticky.
Add rice. Stir in the rice and a cup of water. Let the mixture come back to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and cook, without stirring, until the rice is nearly done, about 15 minutes. The reason we don’t add the tomatoes until later is that the acid in tomatoes will interfere with the cooking process of rice, leaving you with Spanish crunchy rice.
Add tomatoes. Add the can of tomatoes and stir in. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Naturally, if you think you need a bit of hot sauce, now’s the time to stir that in, too. Cover and let cook until the rice is completely done, about 5 minutes more.
Easy, and pretty good. We served ours with a few sliced jalapenos on top, just to kick up the heat level a bit, as our green chilies were a mild variety. The other thing that’s nice about this dish is that you don’t really have to watch it much; it pretty much cooks all on its own without needing a lot of tending. For us, with peppers to clean, that meant that we could do both at the same time. Four stars.