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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Baked Nopal Cactus Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce

Baked Nopal Cactus Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce
by Victoria Challancin

Ok.  I gave in.  I caved.  I capitulated.  My heart, which knows better than my head, thought these would be better fried than baked, but in the end, I opted for the healthy version.  Yep, I baked them.  And were they ever good!  Good, of course, if you like the taste of nopal cactus, and I certainly do.

I realize that many of my readers will neither have access to cactus paddles, called pencas, in Spanish.  Others won't have the interest because they perhaps sound a bit strange.  But trust me on this one...these baked beauties just shine.  The taste, tart and clean, comes through just fine in the baked version as well.

It seems that Mexico has always appreciated the nopal cactus (one of many in the Opuntia ficusindinca species of Cactus family).  It has figured into its cuisine since recorded history and, of course, before that.  You might know it as the main component of nopalitos, a common Mexican salad.  It even appears on the Mexican flag, so great is its importance.  Why, you ask?  One obvious reason is that it grows wild over much of the republic and it is easy to cultivate as well.  A popular food source, cooked or raw, nopal has gotten a great deal of attention in recent years due to its health benefits and nutritional value.  Both the green pads, which I used here, and the cactus fruit are popular throughout all of Mexico--and were, even before people understood their nutritive value.

Health Benefits of Nopal Cactus
  • Used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes
  • Helps fight viral infections
  • Is antiflammatory
  • Excellent for treating colitis, ulcers, diarrhea, and alcohol hangovers
  • Good for blood pressure
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Good source of essential micronutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium
  • Rich in anti-oxidants
  • High in Calcium
  • Low in calories
  • Rich in dietary fiber
  • Has potential role in weight control as 88% of their weight is from water, which is calorie-free and helps you feel full

Recipe:  Baked Nopal Cactus Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce
(Recipe inspired by changed a good bit, so do check out the original)

4 nopal cactus pads (thorns removed), cut into French Fry strips, approximately 4 inches x ½-inch
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 egg whites, lightly whisked
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning herbs--or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Grated zest of one lime
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Avocado Dipping Sauce
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 spring onion, finely minced
juice from ½ lime or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or 1 teaspoon dill, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking oil spray, set aside.
In a large bowl combine panko, herbs or cumin, lime zest, and cayenne pepper. Place egg whites in a separate small bowl.  In a third bowl mix flour, salt and pepper.

Dip cactus strips into the egg whites and then coat them with the flour mixture.

Return cactus strips to the egg whites (or cashew cream) and then coat them with the panko bread crumbs.

Place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
In the meantime prepare the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve immediately.

Similar Recipes from Earlier Posts:
In this earlier post on Avocado Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce, I debated the virtues of frying... and ended up frying.

And in this one I tried these Zucchini Sticks with Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli I shared a bit of my Southern heritage...trying these both fried and baked.

Parting Shot:  Buddha at Night with Flower

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende,


Eha said...

Somewhat frustrating since I do not know of nopal cactus being grown in Australia! Heavens to Murgatroyd, I might be able to throw out the few hated chemical combinations I do use for the parts of body which do not behave :) ! And I certainly would love to learn the taste and consistency. Avocado for lunch today: may be a copycat!! Thank you Vicki . . . have to do some searching around . . .

Anonymous said...

those all look great and the benefits sound like t hey were made for me. we'll be spending part of next winter in mexico. maybe i can make it up to one of your classes.

teresa in nagoya-for just 2 1/2 more months. have loved and am still loving it here, but after almost 5 years here, it's time to go.

laura ann loveland said...

It appears that you have a new blog "look." Yes? I like it a lot and will now have to rethink the "look" of my blog. Thank you again for your continued inspiration and wonderful cooking. Laura

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

I don't know where to find some nopal cactus here in my place. It's sad since I like to give this a try and the health benefits it has is amazing!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've made fries like this with avocado and it's really good but to use cactus would be such a lovely novelty!

laura ann loveland said...

Dear Vicki,
Here is another comment to practice your "response" skills. Buen suerte! Laura

Gourmet Getaways said...

Wow! What an interesting recipe! I'm sure I would love it, anything that is crumbed and dipped in avocado is a winner!
Thanks for sharing xx
Gourmet Getaways

Linda said...

Such a great post and the photos are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

Tania | My Kitchen Stories said...

Oity we cant get fresh cactus here because it would be great. Love the recipe.

Hotly Spiced said...

I've never tried cactus and I'm quite sure it just isn't available in Oz. I like the sound of all those health benefits. And it's great these are equally good baked as fried. I do like the look of the avocado dipping sauce xx

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Now cactus is one thing I know I won't find in my local markets but I can certainly use your technique of cooking with the zucchini that I just bought. Thanks Vicki.