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Cactus Fries

If you want to change up your menu a little (or a lot), try cactus fries.

Folks who live in the south may already be used to ordering fried green beans, so this dish won't be such a surprise.

Once the paddles, or nopales, are cleaned and cut into strips (nopalitos), they're just like any other fried food. Give the strips an egg and milk bath, dredge in flour and pop in a skillet full of hot oil.

The fact is that cactus is really good for you (notwithstanding the fact that these are friend, of course). Large quantities of prickly pear paddles and blooms come from Mexico to Texas and other parts regularly. This plant is also grown in the U.S. Find a mercado and you'll see the paddles piled high in vegetable bins. Just look for the ever-present tongs when you're bagging them as most paddles still have their spines (agüates). A sharp knife at home will take care of these; just be sure to remove the surrounding nodules, too. No need to skin them, but do use heavy gloves to prevent an accidental spiking.

Cactus is like okra as it secretes a slimy sap while you work with it, so be prepared. A rinse and blanch will take care of the mess. Back to green beans - that's one way to describe the taste, only cactus produces a milder flavor. So why not load up on vitamins and minerals, along with the fiber content that many believe can lower blood sugar and even reduce cholesterol. Once you've indulged in cactus fries, you may want to try a more healthy relish to take advantage of heart-healthy benefits.

Cactus Fries
4 servings

2 cactus paddles, cleaned
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut cleaned cactus pads into green bean sized strips and rinse.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch strips for 4 minutes.
Drain in a colander and let cool.
Whisk egg and add milk.
In a second bowl combine the flour and cornmeal.
Add cactus strips in the egg/milk wash.
Heat oil in a skillet or deep fryer.
Coat strips with the flour/corn meal mix.
Drop into oil and cook until crispy (just a few seconds).
Remove and drain on paper towels; add salt and pepper to taste; serve.

 

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