Today is quite different than the past many months that I’ve posted. Today marks one of the very few times that I’ve baked a recipe for the Daring Bakers that isn’t classified as a sweet. And even more importantly? It’s the first gluten-free recipe as well. This month’s challenge of Lavash Crackers has been hosted by Natalie of Gluten A Go Go, and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl. The recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
I definitely have that post for you today, but thought I’d put a local type of spin on it. Seriously local.
Ever had nopales? These Lavash Crackers with garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin can really take on a substantial salsa…
Nopales is the Spanish name for the rounded, sort of Mickey Mouse looking ears of the Prickly Pear Cactus. The pads or paddles, as they’re called, are the veggie portion of the plant, and they can be cooked. Living in San Diego for as long as I have, it’s impossible not to know what they are, and that they can be eaten.
The first time I’d heard of Nopales, I lived in Spain. The prickly pear cactus there were often grown as fences between property lines, and they reached as high as some trees. I remember hearing that people not only ate the bright red “pears” that grew on the tips of the pads, but the pads as well. It wasn’t something I thought sounded remotely appetizing.
Recently, my sister-in-law, who is Mexican, invited us over to watch the first Notre Dame football game of the season. They were playing San Diego State, both my husband and my alma mater. Plus our niece is a freshman at Notre Dame, and on their softball team, so the event could involve some friendly rivalry — as long as you understand that both teams are pretty much horrible this year. My sister-in-law makes the best salsa ever, so I knew I’d be happy in the food department. Who cares about football.
And she didn’t disappoint, of course. But as I shoveled the very first scoop of spicy salsa in my mouth, I noticed that she was watching very carefully. And she had a bit of a grin on her face. As I slurped and crunched my way through a couple more bites, I did notice the color being a bit less bright, and an almost citrusy flavor. The texture was also not quite the same. So I knew something was up. My brother-in-law joined in at that point and asked whether we’d ever had her cactus salsa before…
So the next fifteen minutes or so, I grilled her about where she purchased the cactus, and whether you could just go out and pick it off the hill side. And how to tell whether a pad was good enough to pick, and how to clean them, and prepare them…
I did find some at a local market, and that’s not a surprise, because they usually can be found here and there. But I also spent some time foraging on a hill side and quickly found more. Sure San Diego has lots of palm trees, but it’s technically a desert, so undeveloped hillsides are covered with low-growing brush that is bone dry at this time of the year, and yes, cactus. I guess the toss up on this would be whether I wanted to use the very unprickly pads I purchased, or take my life in my hands to try and tangle with something wild.
No contest. The purchased pads won. But I enjoyed this salsa enough to know that I will be heading out to the hillsides to choose my own pads…or that house around the corner that has some very nice ones growing in the front yard.
Lavash Crackers with Nopales Salsa
makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
1-1/2 c. all purpose gluten free baking flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 T sugar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. water, room temp
1 tsp. Oh! So Garlic! seasoning blend
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-2 cranks of fresh pepper, coarse
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. The dough will be somewhat dry and medium firm, but tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temp for at least 90 minutes or overnight until doubled in size.
Between two sheets of parchment or silicone baking sheets, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness. Carefully peel off the top layer of parchment or silicone. Using a fluted pastry cutter, slice through the dough to make crackers. Pierce each piece with a fork a few times. Sprinkle lightly with water, and then sprinkle on spicy topping.
In a 350 degree F oven, bake the crackers for about 15 minutes until the tops are evenly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan at least 10 minutes. Store in a well-sealed container if not eating immediately.
- I used Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten-free flour
- I used olive oil instead of veggie oil
- Oh! So Garlic! is made by Lizzie’s Kitchen and is a blend of dehydrated garlic, onion, parsley, chives, and other spices.
- I actually measured the thickness of my crackers (1/8″) and they were more chewy than crisp. I baked them in a convection oven for 15 minutes.
- I used active yeast instead of instant yeast, and just mixed everything together.
- I left the dough out over night at room temp — it doubled in size.
- Good flavor — very filling.
2-3 medium to small prickly pear cactus pads
1/3 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves
2-3 pinches salt
1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
3-4 roma tomatoes, chopped
3-4 green onions, sliced
1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped
2-3 good pinches salt
First prepare the nopales…
Choose pads that are small to medium in size. Make sure they’re firm, and with no brown or soft spots. Remove the stickers by slicing the entire nodule from the pad. Also trim all edges. Dice the trimmed pads, and place them in a large sauce pan with several good pinches of salt, and a handful of cilantro, stems and all. Cover completely with water and bring to a boil, covered. Lower heat after the boil, and simmer for about 90 minutes. Remove cliantro stems, and drain well.
Now make the salsa…
Mix the cooked nopales with the remainder of ingredients, and correct seasonings.
Serve with crackers, chips, or with tacos. It’s a nice addition to cornbread, too, baked in the batter.
- When chopping the nopales, they do get pretty juicy, kind of like okra.
- When they’re cooking, they actually smell like asparagus.
- I had both parsley and cilantro on the counter and accidentally threw in the parsley. No big deal — I knew I’d be putting cilantro in the salsa. I’m sure it would have been far more flavorful cooked with the cilantro. Oh well. Next time.
- They’re quite good, and have a tangy, citrusy taste.
- Can’t wait to try on fish or chicken.
- There are lots of different sources of information about nopales, as well as recipes that are different from what I’ve shared.