There are certain foods that you only get certain times of the year. I always try to take advantage of these things, and get creative with what I make to play with the most fun seasonal recipes I can.
WELL! That being said, we all know how crazyyyyyy hot this LA Indian Summer has been. Which means that the produce that survives best in our desert climate is abundant – including Cactus!
Now, I know that most people in the US may not be accustomed to eating cactus, but in some countries – like Mexico – it is a fairly common practice. When I was at the farmer’s market last weekend, the broad green pads of the Napol cactus plant inspired me… to make Napoles (Cactus) Ceviche!
Using the traditional ceviche flavors and all of my awesome farmer’s market finds, I created a vegan cactus based ceviche that was KILLER.
The result was not only bright and delicious, but so colorful and beautiful!!
Check out the simple recipe below to make your own.
NOTE: Don’t like or can’t find cactus? You can leave it out. I swear! Just add in some other of your favorite vegetables that would go well with the ceviche flavors (I’ll list some below)
NAPOLES CEVICHE RECIPE
3 napol (cactus) leaf pads
Lime juice – a lot! (probably 6 to 10 limes)
Salt! (more salt than you think)
2 Ripe Heirloom Tomato, chopped in to large cubes (vary the colors for a beautiful look)
1 can baby artichoke hearts in brine, chopped if needed
1 Cucumber, peeled and sliced in to rounds
1 bu Cilantro – half minced, half full leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Green onion, sliced in to thin rings
3-6 chiles, sliced in to thin rings (how spicy? Your choice. I used a variety for both nice chili flavor and a kick!)
Corn Tortilla Chips
- Cut cactus in to small bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Add a generous amount of salt (about 1 Tbs) and lime juice to cover. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours. NOTE: The cactus will naturally forma slimey/gooey texture while sitting. Don’t let this freak you out! It is totally normal, and will lessen once added in with the rest of the ingredients.
- Pick your poison… And by poison I mean heat. I think that using a variety of different chilis really makes this stand out – some mild ones for the nice chili flavor, others for a spicy kick. I used a combination of mild red chilis, medium jalapeno chilis, and hot hot hot Thai chilis for that extra heat that I love. You might want to exclude the Thai chilis, or even the jalapenos, if you do not like spicy foods.
- Mix it up! Add all of the vegetable ingredients in to a bowl, reserving the lime and salt for later. I like to do the “meat” of the ceviche first – cactus, tomato, artichoke, cucumber. Then i check it out and see if it needs more or less of any item. Then, throw in the minced cilantro, garlic, onion, and chilis – taking this one one step at a time – especially if you are using spicy chilis. You want to be careful that non of these items overpower everything else. It should all meld nicely. Add in lime juice until all the vegetables are well covered, but not soupy. Stir well.
- Now – TASTE! Note that you have not yet added salt to the full mixture, but there is already salt in the cactus. So mix it very well, then add additional salt if needed. Because these are all fresh veggies, and the lime juice balances the salt out a lot, you will likely need to add more. So salt to taste.
- Final taste test – is it spicy enough? sour enough? salty enough? Does it need more garlic or onion? You are the maestro here, so get nuts.
- Let the ceviche sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for all the flavors to meld. Overnight is even better.
- Serve with your favorite guacamole and corn tortilla chips and top with the whole fresh cilantro leaves. (YUM!)
This recipe can be eaten alone, used like a “dip” and eaten with tortilla chips, or even added on top of your favorite dish, sort of like a fresh vegetable salsa.
NOTE: No cactus for you? Try these perfect alternative veggies that go great in Veggie Ceviche: heart of palm, mushroom, corn, avocado, or whatever you feel like trying.