Cooking With Cactus:
Adventures in Random Food With Tim
Stream of Conciousness San Francisco Chili

Please welcome guest blogger, Tim, one of my oldest and hottest friends.

7:00: I arrive home from the store with a bunch of weird food that I've never attempted to cook before. Specifically, a cactus and some tomatillos. I also got a bunch of random mexicanish foods like queso fresco, tortillas, limes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, beans, etc... I'll figure this out as I go.

7:10: Searching the internet for ideas on how to prepare my cactus, I find a few cactus recipes, then decide to just cut the thing open, taste it, and scrap the recipes in favor of my own concoction. I decide to wing it and make vegetarian cactus chili.

7:15: I start by cubing the cactus, then dicing one tomatillo, a bunch of garlic, and a red onion, which I then throw into a big pan with some oil, but not before the onion makes me cry.

7:19: I break out the Patron silver

7:20: Once everything starts to brown, I throw in some veggie broth, black beans, corn from a can, my diced cactus, a diced orange tomato, and half a diced jalapeno pepper. I have no idea what this is going to taste like.

7:25: My roommate starts cooking empanadas. It is obvious that we have far too much food. I scrap my plans to make chicken with cilantro and roasted red peppers.

7:34: I sprinkle a little salt over everything, mix it up, and take a first taste. What is left of my tongue after handling the raw jalapeno slice I ate is enjoying the initial mix. I crank up the heat and try to forget about it for 30 minutes or so while I find my glass of tequila.

7:40: I decide to make a little mix of cilantro and shredded queso fresco, and diced avocado to sprinkle on top of the chili.

7:50: I bought some plantains, so I chop them up for frying. Butter + salt + plantains = awesome.

8:00: I get inspired and throw some of my tequila into the pot, now nearly reduced to the point of chiliness.

8:05: While fixing the avocado and cheese topping I discover that queso fresco crumbles, it does not shred. I add a little lime juice, and it's delicious.

8:10: The chili has reduced down to chili consistency, but does not look pretty since the initially bright colors have dulled to a more chili-like brownish green.

8:11: It is chaos in the kitchen as three people cook 6 things at once.

8:20: Taking my first bite of the chili after snacking on a few plantains, it is awesome. The cactus has changed from its raw state to something resembling a cooked green pepper visually, but it still retains a nice crunchiness and a taste kind of like a less asparagusy asparagus. The okra-like sliminess of the raw center is gone, replaced by a pleasantly slippery middle that seems to have absorbed both the tequila and lime: delicious. The tomatillos add a really nice fullness to the flavor. The queso, after melting in to the chili, looses some of its initial bite. It could probably use more queso than I put in, but it's not bad as is. The jalapenos are still present, but it could also use a bit more spice. The canned corn has taken over the flavor a bit more than I'd like, but could probably be fixed by sauteing the corn along with the garlic and onions instead of mixing it in wet, or roasting it on the cob. Next time...

Now go eat a cactus.

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