Day 133: Roasted Nopalito Tomatillo Salsa ♥

Roasted Nopalito Tomatillo Salsa, another creative vegetable recipe ♥
graphic button small size size 10 A substantial almost-meaty green salsa made with a mix of roasted cactus pads (called nopales), tomatillos and jalapeño. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. Whole30 Friendly. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2005~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2005 Whole Foods is a hike so I don't go often. But on a recent stop, I was surprised that the produce section offered nothing unusual. Sure, the vegetables are displayed like couture. Sure, the range of organic vegetables is spectacular. But as for something new, something unusual ... ... ... nada. In contrast, both my favorite grocery stops (for St Louisans, that would be Schnucks in Kirkwood and Dierbergs in Rock Hill) nearly always have something that I've never before even noticed let alone cooked. Today it was a package of nopales (also known as prickly pear cactus) from Melissa's – for all of $2, the spines removed. I grabbed 'em, even though I had no idea what to make with nopales! Luckily, the recipe inspiration came easily, an adaptation of a straight-forward tomatillo salsa. But after making this salsa with both nopales and tomatillos, I had to figure out how to use it! Again luckily, it's super-easy to use this nopales-tomatillo salsa. Here's what I've done so far, just working the salsa onto our plates using the simple ways we eat every day.

Tortilla Roll with smoked turkey, roasted red peppers, cheese and salsa (2005)
Baked Chicken with the salsa spread on top while baking (2018)
Salsa Toast using Our Daily Bread: My Easy Everyday Bread Recipe with cream cheese and salsa (2018)
Tortilla Eggs, simple over-easy eggs gently cooked under an umbrella of salsa and tortilla (2018)

AND AGAIN IN 2018 This year, we made a deep dive into Mexican ingredient-driven meal prep, we call it Deep Mexico. We found so many new favorite recipes – instant house standards – but I also looked back into A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade's older recipes, to see what might come in handy. Sure enough, the day I found cactus pads at a nearby taqueria and Mexican grocery (for St. Louisans, that's El Toluco near Hwy 141/Manchester Road), I threw together this green salsa for the first time in, yikes, 13 years. So so good ...

WORD DANCERS! Help me out here, please? From what I can tell, the word nopal is the singular form used for a single prickly pear cactus pad (also called a cactus leaf) while the word nopales is the plural form for many cactus pads (also called cactus leaves). The word on the Melissa's package, nopalitos, is the word for sliced or diced cactus leaves and also the word for the salad made from sliced or diced cactus leaves. Nopal vs nopales vs nopalitos, it all makes sense now, right?!


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves 1-3/4 cups

1/2 pound (225g) tomatillos, husks removed & rinsed, halved cross-wise
1 pound (450g) whole nopales (about 4 pads), spines removed
1 medium jalapeño, trimmed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 a medium onion (about 65g), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Broiled Vegetables (roughly chop the Nopales)
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 additional fresh tomatillos, husks removed, roughly chopped
Pinch ground cumin

BROILER Preheat the broiler, placing a rack right below the heat source. In separate areas on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, arrange the tomatillos, nopales, jalapeno and garlic with as much space between as possible (this way, the vegetables roast instead of steam). Broil for up to 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes. The tomatillos, especially if they're small, may need to come off after 10 minutes, they should be soft but not melted. The nopales will puff up and get soft.

FOOD PROCESSOR First, chop the onion and salt together until fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process just until combined, you want quite a lot of texture to remain. Taste and adjust the seasoning: more salt? more cumin? more lemon juice? more fresh tomatillo?

VARIATIONS Switch the proportions, more tomatillos than nopales. If you like, roast the onion too, I'd cut it in thick slices, cut cross-ways. Grilling would work beautifully too and would add a lovely smoky essence.

CACTUS SPINES! Yikes, even when the sharp spines (cactus spines are also some times called cactus thorns) are removed, there are still tiny bits of spine embedded in the flesh. I made the mistake of running my hands across the pads to find them. Don't do this! For days, my hands held small, quite uncomfortable spikes. Just use your eyes to find the spines and remove the spines with small needle-nosed pliers.

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A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the
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© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005 & 2018

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.