Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cactus Pears: Exotic Fruit

 My fave show right now is Chopped. Last night I saw an episode where one of the ingredients were Cactus Pears.. aka Prickly Pears. I wish the contestants would have done soething more creative with them--they just sliced them and served them as is, but what about a puree...a sorbetto....a drink?

I have an intimate relationship with these guys. My Nani was from Sicily, where cactus pears are an abundant and common fruit. We used to get them (from somewhere-- I guess you can find anything in New York) when I was growing up occassionally, and it was always a treat. Nani would carefully peel them just so, to expose the beautiful, albeit seedy, pulpy fuscia-colored fruit. We kids would reverently watch and then she would dole out the slices. I always remember eating it ice cold, and it was very sweet and juicy with a refreshing watery taste reminicent of watermelon. The numerous seeds are just consumed along with the fruit.

They grow here in California and the Southwest, the fruit of the, yeah, Prickly Pear cactus. Since they are common in Latin-American cuisine as well, they are easy to find. I found mine 7 for 99 cents at my favorite latino grocery, King Ranch (more about that here). They also come in the green variety, and they are good too. But I'm a sucker for any weirdly colored fruit, and that amazing bright pink color gets me every time!

I made a fruit salad, and here's what I did. You have to be careful peeling this fruit--most of the time when you get them in a grocery store, the prickly spines are already taken out. But just to be on the safe side, wear gloves when handling them. Trust me, one little wayward cactus spine in your hand will have you going nuts for a few days. They burrow into your skin and its hard to get the lil suckers out.

I take a sharp knife and cut iff both ends.

Then I slice about 1/4 inch into the skin right along the cuts from end to end.
Then the skin is easily peels off, leaving just the fruity inside.

Slice into medalions, or process whole, as you wish, depending on your recipe.

Here's 2 recipes:

Prickly Pear Fruit Salad with Lime and Chili:

4-5 Prickly Pears, peeled and sliced
1 medium pineapple, in chuncks
1/2 small watermelon, cubed
1 medium cucumber, sliced
2 mangoes, chunked or sliced
jicama, sliced into matchsticks (optional)
juice of 2 limes
red chili powder ( I like ancho or pasilla)
sea salt

Arrange the fruit on a platter or in a pretty bowl. Chill well. Just before serving, sprinkle with the lime juice, then the chili powder and a little sea salt. Serve with chili and salt on the side of your guests want to add more... this can be served in lieu of a salad. Its delicious and refreshing.

Prickly Pear Lemonade
3-4 lemons, juiced
3-4 prickly pears, peeled
2 quarts cold water
sweetner to taste (about 1 cup sugar, or 7-8 Splendas
Mint, for garnish
Press the prickly pears through a strainer or sieve to extract the juice and remove the seeds, set aside. Add the lemon juice and the sweetner in a large pitcher. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the prickly pear juice and the water, and stir. Add ice to fill pitcher. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint and more ice. YUM!

Make it a Great Day!

1 comment:

  1. those look intimidating at first, but that lemonade looks amazing!


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