I made a yummy concotion for dinner that we call Aztec Stew. It is a warm, comforting stew that’s good when you want something a bit richer for dinner. It ended up with that name because most of the ingredients originated in Central and South America, although not all of them.
In addition to foods you are readily familiar with, this one contains something special: Nopalitos!
Nopales are the prepared pads of the prickly pear cactus. Normally the younger pads are carefully peeled to remove the spines, then they are cut into small pieces. Nopalitos is a popular dish in Mexico. They have a slightly tart flavor and a bit of a gummy texture, which allows them to thicken soups and stews. Another popular dish is Huevos con Nopales, or scrambled eggs and nopales. They are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which makes them useful for managing diabetes and cholesterol problems.
I’m fortunate because where I live, I can get these in the produce section of some grocery stores. They come already prepared in a bag, as seen below.
Here is the setup. It’s missing a couple of things, but you get the idea.
Large stock pot
1 lb prepared nopalitos
5 new potatoes
1 medium brown onion
6 Hatch chilies, fresh
1 Jalapeno, fresh
4 medium tomatoes
2 zucchini or other similar squash (not shown in image)
1-1⁄2 cups cooked chickpeas
3 medium garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 quart vegetable stock
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (per serving, for garnish)
1 cup freshly roasted corn kernels
3 carrots, shredded
8 oz baby bella mushrooms
Rinse the bagged nopalitos well, remove any bad pieces and set aside.
Add the canola and olive oil to the bottom of the stock pot and start it warming up over medium heat.
Peel and coarsly chop the onion. Clean and slice the mushrooms (if you are using them.)
Put the onion, carrot and mushrooms in the pot along with half of each of the seasonings. Stir to combine well. Sweat the vegetables until the onions are tender.
Wash and seed the peppers. Chop into medium to small pieces. Add them to the onions.
Clean the potatoes. It is not necessary to peel new potatos, but you may want to remove any eyes or blemishes. Cut into cubes and add to the pot. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are barely fork tender. You can add a little of the stock if the pot is getting too dry.
While the potatoes are cooking, clean and cut the zuchinni into pieces. Clean the tomatoes and dice them.
When the potatoes are ready, add all of the remaining ingredients, including the stock and seasonings. Everything should be in the pot at this point except the cilantro.
Cook on medium (don’t boil, just high simmer) for at least 10 minutes or until the nopales and the squash are cooked through. If you need more liquid, you can add either more stock or water.
After dishing out the servings, sprinkle the tops with the chopped cilantro.
Makes about 15 cups.
You could substitute fresh green beans for the nopales if you have to.
I forgot to put in the corn and carrots. I normally do because they balance out the tartness from the nopales and the tomatoes
You could use any cooked bean instead of the chick peas. Pinto beans are a good choice.
The combination of the nopales and potatoes produces a nice creamy sauce.
This will freeze pretty well. Potatoes sometimes have problems, but this dish should be fine.
If you can’t get fresh green chilies, you can use canned or frozen. Add them when you add the stock, or at the very end of cooking the potatoes, instead of with the onions at the beginning.
This came out very good even though I forgot a couple of things. We had someone at the house when I was preparing the dish, and I had to deal with them, so I got distracted. It’s actually better with the additional, optional ingredients!
Here’s my serving.