En­sal­ada de Nopal­i­tos con Chiles Gua­jillo

SAVEUR - - Contents -

SERVES 4 • To­tal: 1 hr. 30 min.

Nopales are an es­sen­tial part of the Oax­a­can diet. With a meaty tex­ture and tart fla­vor, raw, salted cac­tus pad­dles re­tain their nat­u­ral vi­brant color.

11/4 lb. nopales, de­thorned and cut into ½-inch squares

(4½ cups), di­vided

3 medium gar­lic cloves, peeled, plus

1 tsp. minced gar­lic

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

2 Tbsp. plus

½ tsp. kosher salt, di­vided, plus more as needed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 gua­jillo chile, seeded, cut into thin strips

1 chile de ar­ból, seeded

1½ tsp. Mex­i­can oregano Pinch of freshly ground cumin

1 tsp. dis­tilled white vine­gar Freshly ground black pep­per

1 To a medium pot, add 3¼ cups of the nopales, the gar­lic cloves, onion, and enough cold wa­ter to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook un­til the nopales turn light green, about 10 min­utes, then drain, dis­card­ing the cook­ing liq­uid. (This first round of cook­ing re­moves the goo from the nopales.) Re­turn the nopales to the pot, and add 2 tea­spoons salt and enough cold wa­ter to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to medium-low to main­tain a strong sim­mer, and cook un­til the nopales are ten­der when poked with the tip of a knife, 18–22 min­utes. Drain, once again dis­card­ing the cook­ing liq­uid. Re­move and dis­card the gar­lic, and set the nopales aside.

2 To a medium bowl, add the re­main­ing ¾ cup raw nopales and 1 ta­ble­spoon plus 1½ tea­spoons salt, and toss well to com­bine. Set aside at room tem­per­a­ture un­til the nopales have soft­ened and re­leased their slime, about 20 min­utes. Rinse and drain well, then set aside.

3 To a large skil­let over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the minced gar­lic, gua­jillo chile, chile de ar­ból, re­served boiled nopales, oregano, and cumin, and cook, stir­ring fre­quently, un­til fra­grant, about 5 min­utes. Stir in the vine­gar, cook for 1 minute more, then re­move the skil­let from the heat. Add the re­served raw, salted nopales and toss well to com­bine; sea­son to taste with black pep­per and ad­di­tional salt, then trans­fer to a large bowl and serve at room tem­per­a­ture.

the fam­ily’s mez­cal brand. In 2014, the fourth-gen­er­a­tion mez­calero de­buted his own mez­cal, Lalocura, to wide­spread crit­i­cal ac­claim. Án­ge­les shrugs off the glow­ing reviews, and his mas­ter dis­tiller ti­tle. “At the end of the day, we are all farm­ers,” he in­sists.

José Mel­chor Pérez, who farms toma­toes in the Oax­a­can town of San Pablo Güilá, cred­its a few less-than-happy years in Amer­ica with his suc­cess. It was while pick­ing pro­duce near San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, that Mel­chor Pérez first en­coun­tered a green­house. To­day, the agri­cul­tural part­ner­ship he founded, Daan Llia, claims more than 300 green­houses that yield ap­prox­i­mately 3,000 tons of pro­duce a year. To­gether, he and the part­ner­ship’s other mem­bers em­ploy at least 800 lo­cal peo­ple, 75 per­cent of them women. What Mel­chor Pérez re­ally aims to cul­ti­vate, how­ever, is hope

Án­ge­les shrugs off the glow­ing reviews, and his mas­ter dis­tiller ti­tle. “At the end of the day, we are all farm­ers,” he in­sists.

for Oax­aca’s fu­ture. “Kids won’t have to leave any­more,” he ex­plains, “be­cause they can call this project their own.”

I could go on and on, telling you about Omar Alonso, who re­turned from Cal­i­for­nia and founded the tour-guide com­pany Oax­ack­ing, or about Miguel Martínez Cruz and Mario Cruz San­tos, who used sav­ings from their stint in the States to es­tab­lish Ile­gales, a pub that serves burg­ers, beer, and a wide va­ri­ety of mez­cal. But I’d rather you visit Oax­aca and see these things for your­self.

i still live in los angeles, so the

time I spend in Oax­aca in­vari­ably ends at the air­port, with a stop at nearby Al­fon­sina for my fi­nal meal. Jorge León and his mother, Elvia León Hernán­dez, serve cus­tomers out of their home kitchen, of­fer­ing her memeli­tas and var­i­ous egg dishes for break­fast be­fore he takes charge at night. A Oax­a­can re­turnee of a dif­fer­ent sort, León left for Mex­ico City, where he cooked at Pu­jol, one of the coun­try’s most fa­mous restau­rants. His tast­ing menu at Al­fon­sina rein­ter­prets Oax­a­can tra­di­tions and in­gre­di­ents in an in­cred­i­bly so­phis­ti­cated way.

It is a beau­ti­ful thing to wit­ness, two gen­er­a­tions shar­ing one Oax­a­can kitchen, com­bin­ing past and present. And

It is a beau­ti­ful thing to wit­ness, two gen­er­a­tions shar­ing one Oax­a­can kitchen.

Right: A worker at the Lalocura dis­tillery re­moves the agave plants’ spiky leaves. Be­low: Omar Alonso, pic­tured at Ile­gales, pro­motes Oax­aca through his In­sta­gram feed, @oax­ack­ing.

Saveur vis­ited the nowl­e­gendary Res­tau­rante Tla­manalli for the mag­a­zine’s de­but cover story 25 years ago.

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