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At The Bitter End in Austin, Executive Chef Emmett Fox serves this vinaigrette on a salad of mixed greens, pecans, sliced red onions, and goat cheese feta.

Cactus friesJay McCarthy, president and executive chef of Jay’s Mesteña in San Antonio, often serves these fries as a side dish with shrimp or scallops, or as an appetizer with habanero-laced ketchup.

2 lbs. nopalitos
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. achiote paste (look for it in the Mexican specialty-foods section)
2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg white about
3/4 c. ice water
Peanut oil

Remove thorns (if any) and “eyes” from cactus, and trim edges of pads. Cook cactus, covered, for 2 minutes in enough boiling salted water to cover; drain. Cut cactus in 3- to 4-inch strips similar to French fries; set aside. Combine cornstarch and achiote paste in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour and baking powder, add cornstarch mixture, and blend well. In another bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold into flour mixture, alternating with enough ice water to make batter the consistency of unbeaten egg white. Chill batter. Dredge cactus strips in batter, and fry in deep hot oil (375°) 2-3 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Drain well. Yield: 3-5 servings.

Margarita C. Hinojosa of Benavides is famous among Rio Grande Valley residents for her Nopalito Pie, which some think tastes like apple pie, especially if served warm and topped with ice cream.

Published in Recipes: Desserts

This recipe from Josie Slonaker of Corpus Christi was judged Best of Show at the Texas Prickly Pear Council’s 1992 festival cookoff. It appears in Cookin’ with Cactus.

This spectacular dish from Jay’s Mesteña (offered in the restaurant as a special) features a brilliant fuschia sauce with a sweet-tart, creamy taste. Although the tunas aren’t available all the time (look for them in stores from midsummer to late fall), we couldn’t resist including the recipe. This is Julie Jacob's favorite July dish.

Published in Recipes: Entrees

You can find Adams Extract Co.'s recipes on the company's web site at Red Velvet Cake is also known as the $500 Cake and Waldorf-Astoria Cake.

Published in Recipes: Desserts

Laura Patterson provides this recipe for a traditional red salsa. For variety, Laura suggests adding melted cheese, mashed avocado, or black-eyed peas. She also mixes equal amounts of chopped mango (fresh or bottled) and this basic recipe to make a tropical-flavored sauce you can dip with chips or use on meat and fish.

Mark Lashley, saucier, and Richard Wheatley, sous chef, both of Central Market in Austin, created this unusual salsa recipe especially for the readers of Texas Highways. The chefs say you can use it as a sauce for meat or fish, or simply spoon it over ice cream (chocolate is a winner).

Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

This recipe is adapted from one that appears in Matt Martinez’s Culinary Frontier: A Real Texas Cookbook by Matt Martinez Jr. and Steve Pate (Doubleday, 1997). It’s great with chips, but it’s heavenly with barbecue, steaks, and scrambled eggs. If you don’t have a smoker, a barbecue pit will do.

How hot is too hot? The answer varies from one salsa aficionado to another. For a milder salsa, devein and seed the chilies in the recipe, or simply use fewer chilies.

Yield: 6-8 servings 

  • 1 (15-oz.) carton ricotta cheese 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 
  • 1 (28-oz.) jar spaghetti sauce 
  • 8 oz. lasagna noodles (uncooked) 
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach (about 1 1/2 lbs.), washed and stemmed 
  • 2 c. sliced fresh mushrooms whole mushrooms (optional) 

Combine ricotta cheese, egg, and 1 c. shredded mozzarella in a medium-size bowl; set aside. Pour half the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with half the noodles. Spread the cheese-egg mixture over the noodles, followed by the spinach, mushrooms, remaining mozzarella cheese, remaining noodles, and remaining sauce. Pour 2 T. water into each corner of the dish. Cover dish securely with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hours. Do not unseal until cooking time is complete. Remove from the oven, uncover carefully, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with whole mushrooms, if desired. Note: One (10-oz.) package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, may be substituted for the fresh spinach. 

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