Have you ever tried cactus? It’s turning up in supermarkets more often these days. You can find fresh cactus (scientific name: Opuntia) already chopped, with thorns removed, bagged and ready for boiling. The flavor is lemony and mild, with a texture like green beans. Cactus is high in fiber and vitamin C, and definitely worth trying if you are curious.
Cactus isn’t very tasty when raw, and should be boiled or sautéed before using. FYI, I prefer a quick boiling. Simply place the cactus in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for one or two minutes. Remove from the heat, drain the water, and rinse the naturally gooey pectin from the boiled cactus. Once it is boiled, it’s ready for use. Jarred cactus has already been cooked, and is ready for use right out of the package.
I got a little frustrated with my photography studio stove, as it is a rinky-dinky model, and the broiler is fairly wimpy. It took a while to get the onions and cactus to the level of char that I wanted. It may not take you 20 minutes to charbroil your onions and cactus, maybe 10 or 15 minutes if you have a more powerful broiler in your oven. Don’t worry kids, you can definitely blame your equipment if your dishes don’t turn out the way you want.
You can also make this dish by pan frying the onions and cactus first, and then adding the shrimp at the end. Shrimp only take a few minutes to cook.
Also, think about buying some fresh bread while you were at the supermarket. The delicious olive oil that you use for charbroiling is garlicky, oniony, and perfect for dunking. And the tender roasted cloves of garlic smashed into a spread are simply divine.
Charbroiled Shrimp with Cactus and Onions
1 cup olive oil (250ml)
12 oz. cactus, without thorns, washed and chopped* (340gr)
1 onion, sliced
1 head garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails left on (500gr)
Place the cactus in a 2qt / 2lt saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a boil on the stove. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Drain the cactus in a colander, and rinse well. Allow water to drain completely.
Heat the broiler in your oven. Pour the olive oil into an oven proof skillet or baking pan. Stir in the cooked cactus, onions and garlic, tossing well to coat the vegetables with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place under the heated broiler for 10-20 minutes, until the vegetable become well caramelized.
Remove the pan from the oven, then add the shrimp. Stir the shrimp into the vegetables. Return the pan to the broiler, and allow to broil for 5 minutes more, until the shrimp turn pink and opaque.
Remove the pan from the oven, and serve immediately.
*Jarred cactus is ready to use and does not need to be boiled, although you may choose to rinse the cactus in a colander before use.