Grilled Shrimp & Cactus (Nopal) Salad
Cactus is in season and great for grilling. It tastes similar to green beans. Cactus paddles are common in all parts of Mexico and used in many dishes such as salads, tacos and stews. They can be cut, battered and fried as French fries, or grilled and served with meat. They are rich in Vitamin A, C, B complex, iron and fiber.
I found these cactus paddles at Brito Supermarket. Look for ones that are succulent and not wilted. In some Latino supermarkets they are sold pre-cut and are called nopalitos.
It is important to handle cactus paddles with garden gloves. The spines are fine and sharp. If by chance you get splinters from handling these paddles, just use duct tape on the splinter and it will easily remove it. They are so fine it is hard to see them when using tweezers.
To prepare the cactus, use a sharp knife and scrape off all the spines, trim the cut end and gently trim around the edges. It is easier to grill them whole than to cut into strips. Cactus is a great addition to a healthy diet.
Grilled Shrimp & Cactus Salad
2 ea cactus paddles – spines scraped off and edges trimmed
½ lb. extra large shrimp
1 small chipotle chili chopped
2 limes zested & juiced divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 lg tomato cut into wedges
2 ears of corn shucked
½ lg onion sliced ½” thick
One heart of romaine cut in half leaving end in tack
canola oil for grilling
¼ cup of chopped cilantro divided
3 Tablespoons of Olive oil
1 Tablespoon of white vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup of crumbled fresco
2 Tablespoons of Pepitas (roasted & salted pumpkin seeds)
Light a charcoal grill.
Prepare the shrimp by removing shell and deveining. Mix chopped chipotle chili, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and the zest of one lime, brown sugar and cumin. Marinate the shrimp in this mixture for 20 minutes. Skewer the shrimp onto metal skewers.
Prepare the cactus paddles.
Mix the salad dressing using a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. In the jar add the olive oil, white vinegar, juice of one lime and zest of one lime, salt and pepper to taste. Shake vigorously and set aside.
When the coals are ready, lightly oil everything with canola oil including the grill. Grilled the cactus paddles, corn on the cob, and onion slices until lightly charred about 4 minutes frequently turning so they don’t burn. Once the cactus, corn and onion are almost done add the shrimp and romaine lettuce. Cook shrimp for 1 minute per side. Only cook the romaine cut side-down for 30 seconds, just enough to give a light char. When everything is done on the grill, cut cactus paddles into 2” strips, cut corn off the cob, separate the onion slices and sliced the romaine & discard the core end. Toss the cactus, corn, onion and romaine with the salad dressing and pile in the center of serving the platter. Place wedges of tomato around the mound. Top the mound with the shrimp, cheese, cilantro and pepitas. Serve immediately.