Tired of grilled artichokes? No, neither am I.
I wasn’t looking for a surrogate but I found grilled nopalitos do bring something muy diferente a la mesa. Some think the flavor is reminiscent of green beans. But they must be talking about boiled nopalitos because grilled cactus paddle tastes a lot like a lemony grilled artichoke. So in the interest of continued summer grilling and using more interesting ingredients, I’m serving grilled nopalitos.
And since artichoke and mayonnaise are one heck of a duo, I serve these with a caper cumin aioli. Each guest helps themselves to a paddle, a half-lime, some cilantro leaves, and a little ramekin of aioli. The best way to eat these nopalitos is with a knife and fork. Squeeze lime juice over the paddle. Slice one of the “fingers” into a bite-sized piece, add a couple cilantro leaves, and dip in to the aioli. Muy Delicioso.
I get the nopalitos from my local Mexican market here in San Pedro, Bestway Supermercado. They come 5 paddles to a package, already de-spined with edges trimmed and ready to use. Gracias, Sr. Rodriguez.
Cut off any blemished areas or dark spots. Rinse well, then dry completely.
Brush both sides of the paddle with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. If overcooked they become mucilaginous, so keep a close eye on them. Remove from the heat to a cutting board and season generously with coarse sea salt.
Local Cactus Flower
Caper Cumin Aioli
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise (I like no-cholesterol Vegenaise)
- 2 T. rinsed, rough chopped capers
- 1/2 t. cumin seed
- 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 t. fresh lime juice
Toast cumin seeds in a heavy dry pan over medium heat until they become fragrant. Let cool then grind in a spice mill. Whisk all ingredients together. Prepare at least 30 minutes before grilling the cactus so the flavors can meld. Stir again then portion into ramekins.
Slice the paddles into “hands” with five “fingers” leaving the base intact. Serve on a platter with cilantro leaves and Mexican limes, with ramekins of caper cumin aioli on the side, in the style of a grilled artichoke. They’re best when served immediately, right off the grill.