Lenten season is upon us and I am always scrambling to figure out how to have a meatless day. I’m a true carnivore. I can’t help it. Without meat in my meal I often find myself feeling deprived.
Nopales (cactus paddles) is one of the first places I go to create a new recipe or re-create a tried and true one. Often found growing throughout Mexico and California where they have long been favored, it seems today more and more Mexican restaurants in the U.S. are turning out dishes with the cactus leaves. They’re available year-round thanks to companies like Doña Maria who has nopalitos in jars. The fresh cactus leaves are at their peak in the spring. Nopalitos taste great in a variety of dishes including salads and eggs. In fact, check out our salad recipe here.
The Nopales and Fried Tofu in Red Chipotle Sauce are perfect for a family dinner. Serve alongside cilantro lime rice and you have a winner! The nopalitos and fried tofu are deliciously deceptive and makes one think they are eating meat. I didn’t feel depraved.
1 Jar Doña Maria Nopalitos
1 large white onion, cut in half (thinly slice one half for the fried mixture and leave the other half whole for the sauce)
1 box of tofu, cubed and fried
3 Roma tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup of water
2 chipotle peppers (we use a small can with some of its sauce)
1 tablespoon of chicken bouillon
1/2 bunch of cilantro, rough chop
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and strain the nopales in a colander. Add to a medium pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes to remove most of the slime. Rinse and strain the cactus leaves once more and set aside.
In a medium pot of boiling hot water, add 1/2 an onion, tomatoes and the clove of garlic. Let boil for 20 minutes.
In a blender, add the chipotle peppers and a bit of the sauce from the can, the tomatoes, onion and clove of garlic, plus about 1/3 of a cup of water that you boiled the tomatoes in. Add 1 tablespoon of the bouillon. Puree until smooth. Salt to taste.
In a large frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the cubed tofu and fry until brown on all sides. Remove from pan. Add another two tablespoons of olive oil, add the sliced onions and cook about two minutes until tranlucent. Add the nopalitos and the fried tofu. Pour in the red Chipotle sauce, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.