Our guest today is Carmen; she writes in her blog "Saborearte Entusiasma". When you visit her blog you will not only find recipes and the history behind the food, but you will also enjoy her passion to rescue the dishes that had gradually been disappearing from our tables. You will be surprised to see recipes for dishes that are uncommon in United States made with vegetables, fruits, plants and flowers used to cook since Pre-Hispanic times, enjoy the pictures of her visits at the local markets and also her witty writings.
The way of speaking, their songs, symbols, rituals, the environment, their food habits is all that what gives character and form a culture. The cactus is a part of México, from their songs to their symbols, passing and stopping, obviously, in their food, the pride of our identity.
The eagle on our national emblem rests precisely on a cactus. The Mendocino Codex, on page 1 shows the icon of the Foundation of Tenochtitlán. There is an eagle standing on a red nopal cactus, which, according to the monolith Teocalli’s interpretations of the sacred land, the red tunas symbolize the hearts of the Mexicans, and The Nopal immortality, because their leaves reproductive’s capacity and continued growth. Even the shield of México City has a framework of nopales.
Precisely the etymology of Tenochtitlan means: Place of wild tunas; wild thing, and nochtli, tuna, adding the particularity of abundance, tlan
A landscape with cactus is not the same everywhere, only in our country there are over 60 classified species, and each of these cacti enrich our gastronomy. What's more, in addition to the health benefits of cactus, are its fruits, whether red, green or yellow juicy tunas, and the Xoconoxtle (sour prickly pear).
Even the insect cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), a cactus pest, is highly prized for its naturally dye for food and cosmetics, besides giving a beautiful purple color to the textiles.This product was part of the goods that were sent to the East via the sea route of the Nao of China. Now, you can still find in the city of Oaxaca, the beautiful and so special embroidered purple huipiles.
I don’t know other vegetables so accessible, so frequent, so combined and as versatile as the cactus. Can be used in many and various ways as imagination dictates, either in a simple salad, accompanied by grilled meats, tacos, moles, soups, breads, cakes, cookies, tamales, drinks, jams, fruit pastes, ice cream, uff! , the pulp is also used to mix dough for tortillas either corn or wheat flour. And since speaking of food is to speak of innovation, there is even sushi or pizza with nopal-cactus. I prefer a more traditional way. This is the one way I prefer it.
The mature cactus leaf serves as a vessel for cooking like a big pot. It is cooked slowly.This form of cooking is traditional in the state of Queretaro. These Cactus showing above are served with chorizo.
"Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose ship sank in 1528, recounts in his book how he was saved by the Indians from northern México to die of hunger, and how themselves faced adverse soil and climate conditions, making optimum use of the cactus . We can sense his admiration when recounting who they made big-eared tuna, how they made a natural or fermented drink from the fresh juice of the prickly pears and how they made flour and cornmeal by grinding the sun dried peels and seeds provided them with food for a long time", prologue Marco Buenrostro, Cookbook of the nopal of Milpa Alta, DF and Colima.Collection: Indian cuisine and popular CONACULTA.
As for fruit, prickly pears, they are delicious and in some places in the north with the famous cactus colonche is an ancient fermented beverage rich Hispanic and fresh, the Náhuatls knew it as nochoctli (from nochtli in Náhuatl means octli tuna and wine, or wine tuna). On the other hand, the market stalls of San Luis Potosí you can see tall rows of stacked cheese tuna, which is another product to build and preserve the enormous production of tunas. Some candy stores of D.F. and the La Merced market can get the cheese (which is not exactly a cheese but a kind of paste), but will never be rich enough to buy it as the one in San Luis, fresh and packed in colorful cellophane colors.
I do not know if the “Higos Chumbos”, as they call them in Spain, but the Tunas are as tasty and succulent like the ones we grow here in México. What I do remember very well is that several friends of mine from Spain immigrant parents during the Spanish Civil War have told me that they were surprised to see that here Cactus was consumed in many ways, if they had known they would had used them to prevent that many of their countrymen suffered of hunger.
And the recipe with cactus? From classical nopales salad with pico de gallo, to another version. What changes now is the choreography.
This salad is very simple, original and fresh.
September Cactus Salad
Serves 4 portions
4 Nopales previously cleaned
3 1/2 ounces Shredded Oaxaca cheese or Muenster Cheese
The grains of a whole pomegranate
The kernels of one corn cob
2 Poblanos (Seeds removed)
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon of vinegar,
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1. The cactus is cut across as thin as possible and put in boiling water. There are countless ways to cook Nopales and remove the slime produce when you are cutting them and even to imprint an artificial green. I prefer the simplest. I put them in water to a boil, making sure that when the foam begins to rise turn off the heat, strain the Nopales, add clean water to the pot and put again to cook 6 minutes in salted water. Then I let them cool.
2. The corn kernels are cooked in salted water and let it cool.
3. I put the poblano peppers to a boil in two cups of water with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt to taste and a drizzle of olive oil. Once you have cooked and seasoned cut into slices and leave to cool, they do not need to drain, it is best to keep a little of the broth in which they were boiled, as it serves as a light dressing to the salad.
4. Mix in a salad bowl shredded Oaxaca cheese, Poblano strips, kernels of corn, cactus, drained and finally the pomegranate seeds. I served it using a ring mold and remove it in the plate.
Wait, there is still dessert.
Xoconostles in Syrup
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 stick cinnamon
6 Xoconostle fruits
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 stick cinnamon
6 Xoconostle fruits
As I said the etymology of the word: Tunas sour of xocotl, citrus fruit, and nochtli, prickly pear or nopal fruit.
Cut the Xoconostles in half, peel and remove the seeds . Place in a pot with the water and sugar and cook in a low heat. until the water has reduce to 1 cup. After 20 minutes add the cinnamon stick. Check the syrup, if the fruit is not already cooked and the taste is too acidic add more sugar to taste and add a little more water if it has already evaporated. Do not overcook, their texture should be firm and delicate.
This post is featured at Simple Lives Thursdays and Full Plate Thursday.
Happy Independence Day! ¡Viva México!
This was a Guest post by Carmen from "Saborearte Entusiasma".