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prickly pears

Here in the Southwest desert, it is prickly pear season. The prickly pear fruit (also known as tunas) are ripe for the picking; the very careful picking, that is. Be sure to wear thick leather gloves and use tongs. The most versatile way to use the fruit is to make a sauce, which can be kept for up to one week in the refrigerator or may be frozen. From there you can use the sauce to make a vinaigrette, use it in marinades, margaritas, or mojitos, to make sorbet, or add it to a BBQ sauce, and the list goes on. The fruit has a bright strawberry/kiwi/watermelon flavor and the most gorgeous crimson color.  There are two things to be careful of though – the tiny and very painful hair-like stickers (hence the need for gloves and tongs) and the pretty color itself, it stains like crazy.

Prickly pear branches (the pads) are called nopales. They are also edible, cooked, and eaten as a vegetable. I think they taste similar to green beans but with a slimy texture. Can you tell I am not a fan of the nopales?

Rick Bayless’ Crimson Prickly Pear Sauce

2  1/2 pounds (about 16 to 18) fresh prickly pears (tunas)
1/3 cup sugar, plus a little more if needed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon orange liqueur; such as Cointreau, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier

Cut off both ends of a prickly pear, then using a fork, hold it on its end and use a sharp paring knife to cut down just under the rind. Continue all around the fruit until it is completely peeled.  Drop into the bowl of a food processor.

Continue with the remaining fruit. Puree in the food processor, then press through a fine strainer into a bowl. There should be about 3 cups of juice. Discard the pulp and seeds.

In a medium saucepan, combine only 2 cups of the juice with 1/3 cup sugar, and simmer rapidly over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to 1 cup. Cool to room temperature.

Combine the cooked mixture with the remaining 1 cup of uncooked juice in a small bowl. Stir in the lime juice and orange liqueur. Taste and add additional sugar if needed.

Cover and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for about a week or maybe frozen.

Makes about 2 cups

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1 comment

1 Marissa { 08.23.11 at 10:26 AM }

Send me some!

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