If I had to suggest one recipe to try to everyone who was skeptical about cactus paddles, who didn't want anything "weird tasting", this would be the recipe I'd suggest. Everyone I know that has tried it, other than olive haters, has loved it. It by far is my favorite recipe for cactus paddles.
This Mexican cactus salad, to be honest, isn't a traditional Mexican recipe, as far as I know, but is based on Mexican vegetables and ingredients, from nopalitos, the Spanish name for cactus paddles, to tomatoes and cumin, etc, and it fits the flavor profile I and many other people associate with Mexican cuisine.
I've made it with purslane, called portulaca in Mexico, and without, and both ways it is terrific. I'll be honest -- I don't always have olives at home; though I don't promote shopping specifically for recipes, just using what is on hand, this is one recipe that is so worth it that I will buy ingredients specifically for it.
If you don't eat legumes, feel free to leave the chickpeas out of this recipe, and adjust the rest of the ingredients to taste. I suggest making sure to include the purslane if you don't include chickpeas.
2 cups chopped, dethorned, cactus paddles
1 1/3 cups chickpeas
1 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup chopped black or green olives
2/3 cup purple onion, chopped
1 cup chopped purslane (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil or liquid oil of choice
1 teaspoon vinegar or 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1. Boil the cactus paddles in water until they turn from bright green to olive green, releasing their slime into the water. Strain and rinse.
2. Chill the cactus paddles.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients.
4. Serve cold.
Variations: If you don't have cactus paddles, feel free to use a combination of various colors of peppers, ideally mainly green ones, either raw or sauted, for this recipe. Add some extra lemon juice or vinegar if so to compensate for the lack of natural acidity found in the cactus paddles.
What is your favorite way to eat cactus paddles? Have you ever tried something like this? Does it look like a recipe you'd try?
What flavors do you associate with Mexican cuisine?