Sometimes when I'm having trouble coming up with something new and interesting, all it takes is a trip to a market that's not in my usual repertoire of shops. On this particular occasion, I decided to trek out to Essex Market. It's an indoor public market in the Lower East Side that houses an eclectic collection of shops including a butcher, a fishmonger, a cheesemonger, some Latin American grocers and a TV repair shop.
There, I spotted a these gorgeous green pads of Nopal, which I couldn't resist. Still wondering what I was going to do with my newly acquired prickly veggies, I headed over to Saxelby Cheesemongers. The thing I like about this cheese shop is that they don't have an overwhelming selection like some places in Manahattan, and yet they always seem to have something special and delicious.
I picked up a wedge of True Blue, and it wasn't until I got out onto the street that it occurred to me that my two random purchases might work together. There, on the chewing gum strewn sidewalk, the idea of cactus canapés was born.
When brushed with olive oil and grilled, nopales make the perfect flat foil that can be cut to almost any shape and topped with various things. After having a bite with just the nopal and cheese, I realized it needed something to bridge the gap between the tartness of the nopal and the brine of the cheese, perhaps something a little sweet. In keeping with the cactus theme, I drizzled a bit of agave nectar on each piece, which did the trick.
- Clean the nopales of any remaining spines by placing each segment on a flat surface and running the back side of your knife from the top to the bottom. Be sure to get all around the edges as well. Once you've removed all the spines, wash them off and dry them.
- Brush the nopales with olive oil and sprinkle some salt on each one. Put them on a grill or under a broiler until cooked through and lightly browned.
- Slice each segment into bite size pieces and top with a piece of Roquefort and a drizzle of agave nectar.