Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pan-fried Swai with Nopales Relish

I thought it would be interesting to cook with cactus leaves.  Surprisingly, Sprouts doesn't carry them, and Marina Farms is closed for renovation.  My local Pavilions did have them.  I'm that annoying person who buys the odd produce that no one ever gets and makes the checkers look up the number.  At least there was no line behind me, and we had a chat about how to prepare the paddles.

Nopales are a common veggie in Mexico and some parts of the southern U.S.  The 99¢ Store carries tortillas with nopales flavoring.  It's a fresh, crunchy taste much like a green bell pepper, but without triggering my allergy.  That was important because I planned to use chili powder on the fish.

The swai was on sale in frozen pouches.  If you use true portions of 4 to 6 ounces per person, it came out to under a dollar per serving.  The quality of the fish was far above what I was expecting, considering my experiences with frozen rockfish and salmon.  It's all about the packaging, and not trying to store them in the freezer indefinitely.

I couldn't find the limes.  Are they out of season?  So, I bought one of those little plastic limes full of juice.  The taste and aroma were just what I wanted, even though the cost was a bit more than an equal number of actual limes.

Aside from the ten minutes it took to remove the spines from the nopales, this was very easy and quick. I had to pull a couple of needles out of my thumb, but they didn't hurt any more than getting pricked by a sewing needle and did not bleed.  Just a warning.

Nopales relish
2 large nopales paddles (about 1/2 lb)
*1/2 C diced red onion
1 Tb lime juice
1/4 tsp salt

Before & After
1.  Remove spines and black "eyes" from paddles with a vegetable peeler.  It's easier if you hold it at the base with a kitchen towel and work your way up to the other end.  You do not have to skin the paddle, just remove the black bumps and any prickers.

2.  Cut off dried base of paddle and cut into 1/2" dice.  Place in a saucepan with salt and water to cover and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let sit for 2 minutes to blanch.  Drain and rinse.

3.  In a bowl, toss together nopales, onion, and lime juice.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pan-Fried Swai
2 swai fillets (about 1 lb)
2 Tb olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
lime wedges for garnish

1.  Add olive oil to large skillet and preheat on medium.

2.  Cut each fillet in half to make portions.  Dust one side with salt, garlic powder, and chili powder.

3.  Add fish to skillet, seasoned-side down.  Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and cook other side for 2 minutes.  Check for doneness, and continue to cook as needed.  I pulled the portions when they were just barely done, and they were very soft and almost buttery.  Try not to overcook unless you like that crunchy toughness on the edges that is reminiscent of grilled fish.

4.  Serve hot, either on or beside nopales relish, and with lime wedges on the side.

Difficulty rating  π

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