(Drawn from Diana Kennedy, the Vazquezes and my own experimentation)
When we moved to Brentwood, Erika went to a cooking demonstration at the home of a the Vazquez family from church. While there, somehow it came up that I like nopalitos (cactus). They were impressed, because apparently cactus-eating gringos are rare, and ever since then they've been after me to come over and harvest some from their backyard. So, today I did and this salad is the result. By the way, this is really good with warm corn tortillas.
There are multiple parts to this, so bear with me.
Preparing the cactus:
Use a knife or vegetable peeler to scrape the spines off the cactus paddles and trim the spines from around the edges. Be sure to wear gloves during this portion. Rinse well and make sure you've removed all the spines. Slice into strips or squares.
Cooking the cactus:
Place cactus in a heavy sauce pan and cover with water. Add about half an onion, a couple cloves of finely chopped garlic, one jalapeño, sliced, salt. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until cactus is nearly tender. The cactus will ooze a lot of slime. Drain and return to pan, cooking until slime is completely gone. Remove onion and cool.
Making the salad:
About 2 cups cooked cactus
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
handful of chopped cilantro
Red wine vinegar
Combine all ingredients, adding olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste.