Grilled Chicken with Nopalito and Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Chicken Pineap#EFA2 2This makes a delicious light entrée when served as a stuffing for warm flour tortillas. It can also be served with rice and a vegetable. From The Prickly Pear Cookbook, by Carolyn Niethammer.

Grilled Chicken with Nopalito and Pineapple Salsa

Serves 4

1 raw, cleaned prickly pear pad*
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup canned crushed pineapple packed in its own juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, including some tops
1 tablespoon chopped canned green chiles
1 finely minced serrano chile (optional)
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro (optional)
4 large boneless chicken breasts
8 medium-size flour tortillas
4 cups finely shredded leaf lettuce

Cut prickly pear pad in 1 1/2-inch squares. Film a heavy frying pan with the oil and add the prickly pear pads. Cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until pieces have given up much of their juice and are slightly brown. Remove from pan, cool, and chop into pieces as wide as a matchstick and about 1/4 inch long.

Transfer to medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients (except for chicken), stir to combine, and set aside for flavors to mingle.

Grill chicken breasts until done. Warm tortillas while you slice each chicken breast crosswise into eight pieces. Divide chicken and lettuce evenly among the tortillas and top with salsa. Fold tortillas to enclose stuffing.


*You can buy ready-to-use prickly pear pads at some grocery stores, or prepare your own following the directions below:

Gather newly grown pads in the spring. Pads from wild varieties should be about the size of a small woman’s hand—about six inches long; domestic varieties can grow larger, to about the size of a man’s hand—say seven and a half inches—or a little larger. The large Mexican varieties and some types developed by Luther Burbank have fewer stickers. The stickers on young pads are smaller and less lethal than those on mature ones.

Holding the pads with heavy leather gloves or tongs, cut the pads from the mother plant, leaving about an inch of growth on the plant. New pads will grow from this stump.

Lay the pads flat and, using a serrated steak knife, scrape against the grain of the stickers to remove them. You may have to use the tip of the knife to remove some of the glochids (the tiny, hair-lick stickers) at the base. Some of the newer varieties have so few stickers that you can clean them simply by rubbing with the scrubber side of a kitchen sponge. Trim a thin margin from the outer edge of the cactus. Rinse well and check closely under a strong light for remaining stickers.

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