Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Flavor Trends for 2009: Cactus

From my previous posts (November 16, November 19, November 23), I revealed that I am truly fascinated with food trends, and experimenting with new flavors. Recently, Mintel, the consumer, media and market research company, tallied the top food and flavor trends for 2009. Here are the top seven flavor trends for 2009:

1. Persimmon (featured in November 16th blog post)
2. Starfruit (featured in November 19th blog post)
3. Lavender (featured in November 23rd blog post)
4. Cactus
5. Chimichurri
6. Peri-Peri
7. Masala

In this post, I spotlight the exotic and interesting flavor of Cactus! I will continue to highlight each trend, with a recipe or two that I recommend. Please feel free to bookmark and/or follow this blog so you can get a great snapshot of all seven in the weeks to come. I also welcome any recipes that include Cactus that you would like to share.

(image from

#4 Cactus: What is Cactus? What does it taste like?

Usually what we see in Latin food markets, and even our own markets, is the edible Prickly Pear Cactus, known in Spanish as "nopal". The "paddles, or pads", if you will, of the Prickly Pear Cactus are oval, fleshy and even sticky or "slimy" (as some say!) when cooked. Some liken the taste to green pepper, asparagus even green beans. They can be found in markets canned or in jars pickled or packed in water, even "candied nopales" can be found which is the cactus packed in a sugary syrup.

However, you can also prepare fresh cactus taking care to cut out the spines and fully clean the paddles. You can then boil them, or grill them. I have enjoyed grilled nopales in tacos and with eggs. I have also savored them deep fried after having been dipped in a cornmeal batter! Cactus also has great nutritional benefits as it is high in vitamins A and C, as well as B complex vitamins and iron.

(image from

Here are two recipes I found on for dishes featuring cactus. I cannot stress how easy it is to experiment with cactus yourself, so I have also included a brief tutorial on how to prepare the cactus for cooking! Enjoy!

From the Santa Fe School of Cooking, How to Prepare Cactus (Nopales):

* Lay the nopal paddle on a flat surface. With a sharp knife, trim the base of the paddle.

* Trim around the outside edge of the paddle with the tip of the knife.

* Carefully slice the thorny nods from the trimmed nopal paddle.

* Clean nopal cactus paddle in water.

* Cut the cleaned cactus paddle into 1/2-inch slices, width wise, or diagonally across the paddle.

(image from

Nopales & Green Beet Salad
Santa Fe School of Cooking: Flavors of the Southwest

Yield: Serves 6

Note: For the best flavor, choose small- to medium-sized beets that are firm. Just before cooking, wash beets gently so as not to pierce the skin, which would result in the loss of color and nutrients. Peel the beets after they are cooked and cooled. The skin comes off very easily.
Nopales, or fresh cactus, is the fleshy, paddle-shaped stem of the prickly pear cactus. All varieties of prickly pear are edible, but it is best to look for a medium-sized variety that is relatively spineless (this is probably what you would get in the United States anyway). What we see growing in the southwestern part of the United States are generally thick-skinned, low-growing varieties that are not particularly tasty. Nopales are very common in Mexico and are beginning to have more of a presence in the States, as they are very healthy.


4 medium-sized golden (or red) beets
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lime, lemon or orange-flavored olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds fresh nopal cactus paddles
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into slivers


Place the beets in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain, peel and cut beets into thin wedges while still warm. Dress lightly with white wine vinegar and flavored oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place oven racks at the middle and highest positions.

Preparing Nopales:

Toss the cactus strips with the oil, salt and pepper, and place them on two foil lined baking sheets in even layers. With one tray on each rack, roast for 20 to 25 minutes, switching the trays halfway through, until the edges of the strips are crisp and the color is drab green. The strips will have shrunken slightly and will be dry.

In a medium bowl, combine the nopal strips, beets and red onion. Drizzle with Vinaigrette and let stand for 15 minutes to combine flavors. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

(image from

Shrimp and Nopal Cactus Salad

Yield: Makes 16 (1-cup) servings

Editor's note: The recipe below is part of a healthy and delicious spa menu developed exclusively for Epicurious by Lake Austin Spa Resort.


1 pound cactus paddles or fresh green beans
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 medium tomatoes, diced small
3 radishes, julienned
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons leaf oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
2 pounds small cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp


Pare the spines from the cactus; trim the base and around the edge. Dice into 3/4 x 1/4-inch pieces. Blanch in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or until cold. Serve cold with baked corn tortillas.

Visit to find a caterer, personal chef or restaurant that features unique, exotic flavor trends that include starfruit and so many more!

Are you a caterer, personal chef or restaurant and want to be part of the success? Log on to and start your listing today for as little as $29.00/6 month membership! Contact us via email at or call us toll-free at 1-877-774-1255.

No comments: