Southwest Salad Timbale
Nopal is the flat, fleshy pad or paddle of the prickly pear cactus, and it is an increasingly popular ingredient choice. It is available fresh throughout most of the year at Hispanic markets, but you may use a quality jarred marinated nopal insteadalso available in Hispanic markets. Feel free to embellish this colorful and festive salad
with vegetables of your choice. To press this salad together, use a ring mold made of acrylic tubing 2Â½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long, or any other similarly shaped mold or container. You can make the Cilantro Oil up to 1 week in advance and refrigerate it, and the Strawberry-Chipotle Balsamic can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.
Marinated Nopal Cactus
- ½ bunch cilantro
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup canola or grapeseed oil
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 nopal pads, burred, charred and sliced into ½-inch-thick strips
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 1 orange
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. dried Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup fresh apple juice
- 8 strawberries, halved
- 3 dried chipotle chiles
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ tsp. salt
- 2 cups cubes peeled jicama
- ¼ cup cubes red onion
- 1 tsp. seeded and minced jalapeño
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
- Juice of 1 lime plus juice of ½ lime
- Salt to taste plus ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed
- 2 jarred roasted pimientos, cubed
- 2 pink grapefruits
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, optional
- ¾ cup Cilantro Oil
- Cilantro leaves for garnish
- To make Cilantro Oil: Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Plunge cilantro into boiling water 10 seconds. Remove, and immediately shock in ice-water bath. When cool, wrap cilantro in towel, and squeeze dry. Cut leaves and top half of stems from cilantro. Place cilantro leaves in blender, and add olive oil and canola oil, blending until smooth. Add salt, and set aside.
- To make Marinated Nopal Cactus: Burr cactus by placing cactus pads over burner flame to singe burrs. Alternatively, carefully cut off burrs with knife. Flip cactus pads over, and repeat on other side. Roast cactus pads in broiler until lightly charred. Transfer cactus pads to work surface, and scrape off charred burrs. Make sure to clean work surface of any remaining burrs. Slice cactus into strips.
- Whisk lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in mixing bowl. Place cactus strips in marinade, and marinate 2 hours at room temperature. Cut cactus strips into small cubes before serving.
- To make Strawberry-Chipotle Balsamic: Combine balsamic vinegar, apple juice, strawberries and chipotle chiles in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature and purée in blender. Strain into bowl, and add pepper and salt.
- To make Southwest Salad: Place jicama, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, juice of 1 lime and salt together in mixing bowl, and toss. In separate bowl, mix avocado cubes with juice of ½ lime. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and set aside. Slice grapefruits in half, remove segments from skin and inner membranes, and cube.
- Place 6 ring molds on flat work surface. Add one-sixth jicama mixture, one-sixth marinated cactus, one-sixth roasted pimiento, one-sixth avocado and one-sixth grapefruit to each. Using flat surface such as bottom of glass, hold each mold over plate, and press ingredients toward plate, about 30 seconds, to set up timbale.
- To serve, drizzle 2 tablespoons Strawberry-Chipotle Balsamic and 2 tablespoons Cilantro Oil over each plate. Using spatula, place timbale in center of plate.
- Carefully remove mold while gently pressing down on ingredients inside. Sprinkle plate with toasted pumpkin seeds, if using, and garnish timbale with cilantro leaves.
Wines with vivid acidity will match well with salad-type dishes such as this timbale. Its distinct herbal flavors, significant acidity and fruitiness call for Domaines OTT Château Romassan Bandol AOC Rosé Coeur de Grain.