Jody Lynn Nye handed me a challenge for her ETWYRT. Most often, an author suggests their favorite meal, either to eat or prepare. Others choose a meal that reflects their heritage, like Sarah Hoyt’s Bolinhos de Bacalhau, and Peter Grant’s Koeksusters. Jody suggested a meal from one of her books. Since she writes science fiction (and have I mentioned yet that it’s delightful SF? She has a very different, light touch, and a great sense of humor. I have suspicions about that humor…)
In her space opera View from the Imperium, she writes about a meal served to her intrepid heroes, and that’s what she suggested I create for this post. Here’s part of the passage – Jody also suggested another part of the meal that doesn’t appear in the passage, a cardamom sorbet.
I will admit here that I had to ask for help. The crowd in the ETWYRT facebook group gave me some terrific suggestions. I’d initially thought that chile rellenos would work, but as Jody is allergic to peppers, I started looking at different options. Bok Choi, squash blossoms, zucchini… We wound up settling on a succulent leaf – a prickly pear leaf! I found them at Jungle Jim’s, spines and all. Did you know cactus spines have little (microscopic) hooks in them that make them hard to pull out of skin? I know that now.
I started out with two leaves, and when I tried to filet one to stuff it, discovered that I can’t filet a prickly pear leaf. So that leaf went to plan B, while the remaining intact leaf got wrapped and put on the grill. For cute little vegetables, I skewered and grilled baby ‘bello mushrooms and grape tomatoes.
The mangled leaf got chopped up. Prickly pear leaves are mucilaginous, so to combat that I marinated the leaf pieces in the same thing I’d put on the shrimp – a mix of olive oil, lime juice, crushed ginger and garlic. Then I fried the pieces with the remaining cheese mixture on my flat griddle until the pieces were soft and cooked through. This cheese sauce I served over sticky rice. It wasn’t the Quistaminatos of the book, but it came out very flavorful and the nopales pieces lost their slimy texture.
Overall, this wasn’t a phenomenal success. The intact prickly pear leaf, like all succulents, was a bit slimy in texture. The cut and marinaded pieces lost that, and the cheese mixture was great. But it was great fun to plan this meal, and execute it with improvisations along the way. I got to try an ingredient that was totally new to me, and one that I had never thought of cooking before.
The cardamom sorbet wasn’t nearly so alien. I was able to find a recipe and modify it. I would strongly suggest anyone following it to reduce the sugar. I was unable to get this to freeze all the way, as it was too sugary to fully crystallize. I used a combination of Seville oranges and blood orange juice, with Seville orange zest. The resulting sorbet was powerfully flavored, a complex blend of sweet, sour, bitter, and spices. The First Reader made a face and gave it back to me. I ate both portions. It’s a fantastically different dish, and I can certainly see why sorbets are used to cut the fats and flavors between courses and cleanse the palate. I’ve never made my own before, although I’ve bought them, and I think I will be playing with the new ice-cream machine… but that’s another blog post!
So grab a copy of View from the Imperium, start the charcoal, and pick up a couple of prickly pear leaves. Gingerly!