Nopal Chicken Salad from Iskashitaa
This is my one of my favorite things to do with nopales and my basic go-to salad dressings during citrus season. Each bite should combine the nopal with smoky roasted poblano, sweet/tart dressing, crispy lettuce, crunchy nuts, and whatever other options you prefer.
Seville juice, approx. 2 Tbl. You can substitute lime juice or a mix of lime and orange juice but the Seville juice is more complex.
Honey, approx. 1 Tbl. Adjust as needed, depending on sourness of juice.
Garlic, 1 tsp to 1 Tbl., fine chopped
Onion, 1 tsp to 1 Tbl., fine chopped
Oil, 5-6 TBL. Use nut oil, olive oil, or a combination
Cumin, large pinch
Ground red chile or pepper, large pinch (Aleppo chile is good, or any other medium-hot to hot chile).
Wisk all together or put in jar and shake until oil and juice have emulsified. Adjust the balance of juice to honey and other flavors. Allow the flavors to sit and meld for a few minutes.
1-2 Nopales/Prickly pear cactus pads, roasted, spines removed, and cut into strips 1-2 Poblanos, roasted, peeled, and cut into strips
Lettuce and other fresh greens
Herbs such as cilantro or basil
Nuts (such as pecans, piñons, or hazelnuts)
(Optional) Leftover fried chicken. Especially good if the chicken has a little mesquite flour in a crunchy crust.
Other ingredients: Add other good salad stuff like crunchy, juicy red bell, thin sliced red onion or shallots, peppery cress, thin sliced radishes, mango, crumbled blue or salty cheese, marinated tofu, grated carrots. The photo above has butter lettuce, leftover chicken, pecans, red onion, and garden cress, red bell, and pecans in addition to the nopal and poblano strips.
Tear up lettuce, mix poblano and nopal strips together, cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces, cut up any other veggies or fruit. Arrange on bed of lettuce, drizzle dressing over all and enjoy!
Preparing cactus pads
Trim off the spines and cut away the border around the edges. Double check that you have all of the spines removed by running your fingers across the pad and then cut into 1/4 – 1/2″ strips.
Carolyn Niethammer (2004; The Prickly Pear Cookbook, Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tucson) lists several methods for roasting nopales and you can use any here. I usually toss in olive oil with a pinch of salt and scatter in baking pan with high enough edges to contain the juice. Cook at 350-375 degrees. They will release a surprising amount of juice. Continue to cook until the juice evaporates. I usually cook them until the edges are just slightly crispy. The cactus preparation is the most time consuming part. I generally buy extra, roast a lot at once and freeze them in small containers.