Nopales Salad

Did I mention that we have the bestest neighbors?  If the Awesomest neighbor fixes our food processors and washes our car, the other neighbor feeds us.  This guy is pretty cool even though he has guns. He makes the best nopales salad I have ever eaten!  It is heavenly! I guess it reminds me of the Russian vinegret, though the pickles are replaced with cactus, that has a somewhat salty-sour flavor; black beans are used instead of potatoes and carrots, and Mexican cheese is added for a more delicate flavor – all in all a healthier, more nutritious version.

Our first attempt at making nopales ended up in a complete disaster as we bought unprepared cactus leaves at the farmers market.  Unless you enjoy tedious tasks similar to fish filleting combined with hedgehog petting you will not appreciate dealing with these guys! 

Apparently, they sell dethorned and chopped nopales at Mexican grocery stores – easy, breezy, …easy!

My neighbor encourages to use your own imagination when coming up with ingredients and dressings (in fact I had 3 different versions of his salad and made a couple of different versions myself ).  So, turn your creative side on and enjoy!Apparently, they sell dethorned and chopped nopales at Mexican grocery stores – easy, breezy, …easy!

Print this recipe

NAPALES SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of black beans, soaked overnight or for at least 8 hours
  • 1 large beet
  • 1,5 cups of chopped and de-thorned nopales
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, and chopped
  • 4 oz of queso fresco (Mexican cheese, could be substituted with feta), chopped or crumbled
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4-5 radishes, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, diced
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and drain the beans, place them into a soup pot, cover with water (about 2 inches of water over the beans), and boil for about 45 minutes until soft. Drain and chill.

Peel the beet and slice it into ¼ inch-thick disks, steam for 10-15 minutes until tender. Let chill for about 10 minutes, and chop the disks into cubes.

Bring 4 cups of water to boil, add a little salt.  Dump chopped nopales into the water, and boil for about 10 minutes.  Drain and wash under cold water to remove all the goo.

Make the dressing: whisk olive oil and vinegar together, add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all the salad ingredients and add toss them with the dressing.

Serve by itself or with chips or tortillas.

Russian Friday – Vegetarian Borscht

This beet soup would probably be one of the first items that pops up if you google “Russian cuisine”. However, being more of a pastry person while growing up, I skipped all the borscht hype.  Eight months ago our family was invited to a Russian dinner that completely changed my attitude.  A few… quite a few.. disastrous attempts later I am finally proud to present my vegetarian version of this famous Russian dish.

Traditionally borscht is made with beef broth and beets (of course), and there are a million different ways to prepare it.  I found my favorite recipe on another US blog written by a Russian mom.  Here it’s modified to fit our tastes.  Though, if you are looking for the original meaty version, I cannot recommend a better place than Sofya’s blog!

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VEGETARIAN BORSCHT

INGREDIENTS:

  • 7 medium beets, leaves removed
  • 5 liters vegetable broth
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and grated
  • 1,5 yellow onion, shelled, and finely cubed
  • 1 8-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • ½ head of garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 small cabbage, finely shredded
  • 3-4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • Juice from 2 small lemons
  • 2 dry chili peppers
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400⁰F/200⁰C.  Wrap the beets in foil, punching a few holes in each bundle.  Bake the beets for about 1-1.5 hours.

Pour vegetable broth into a large soup pot, and let it come to a boil. While the broth is warming up, preheat a frying pan, melt the butter on it, and sauté carrots, turnip, and onion in it until the vegetables are very soft and juicy (for about 10 minutes).  Add tomato paste, and steer, letting it to melt and incorporate.

Once the beets are baked, remove them from the foil, peel, and shred.

Dump the sautéed vegetables, beets, cabbage, potatoes, chili peppers, bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns into the broth, and let boil for another 10 minutes.  When the potatoes are cooked, add lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Your goal is to find the perfect balance between sweet and sour when putting together the final ingredients.  My babushka actually adds sugar, if the beets are not sweet enough.  It’s all about pleasing your taste buds!

Make ahead: the vegetarian borscht will keep well in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Cool it, pour it in freezer-safe zip lock bags, and let lay flat in the freezer.  The meat version should be ok for up to 3 months.

To serve: garnish the soup with sour cream and dill.

 

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