Blog of Los Arboles Hotel and El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana in Palm Springs.
Nopal. Nopalito. Prickly Pear Cactus. The instantly recognizable image of the Nopal Cactus is often associated with our neighbor to the south and even appears on the Mexican Flag. But it can be found in many yards, open spaces and hillsides throughout Southern California as well. The Nopalito sold in jars and used in Mexican salads is not very appealing to most gringos. A tad bitter and not too visually appetizing either. However, when picked fresh, grilled over an open flame and included in braised meat dishes with roasted chiles and tomatoes … the lowly Nopal takes on a delicious flavor that really compliments beef, pork and lamb. El Mirasol owner Felipe Castañeda has been tinkering with Nopalitos for years and seems to have struck a chord with his new "Costillas de Puerco con Nopalito" dish soon to hit the menu at both El Mirasol locations in Palm Springs. And as if the rich flavors of this dish alone were not enough to grab your attention … how about a little food science on the Nopal? Nopales are very rich in soluble dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. The addition of Nopales also reduces the glycemic effect of a mixed meal. Nopales are low carbohydrate and according to UCLA School of Medicine researchers, may help in the treatment of diabetes. So enjoy the fire roasted Nopal for the flavor and nutrition they offer … just don't trip into one while out hiking.