I always find unusual and inspiring ingredients at my Grocery Outlet.
This helps me avoid the much-dreaded "dinner rut" and keeps my meals fresh and fun. Recently, I found this item on my Grocery Outlet store shelf:
Hmmmm. Jarred tender cactus.
I can't say that has ever graced my dinner table and I think it was just the ticket to keeping my menu creative this week. At $1.79 for a large jar, it would hardly break the bank to give it a go! That's another thing I adore about Grocery Outlet - I get to try new ingredients, but without having to spend a small fortune!
I did a little research, and it turns out this can be a pretty versatile ingredient. You can serve it as is, use it on salads, incorporate it into Tex-Mex dishes, or toss it with beans and rice for a side dish. I decided to try it a couple different ways. But first, I was super curious about the smell and taste...
Time to pop the lid!
The smell was totally pleasant. It reminded me of a cross between jarred chilis and green beans. I was excited to give it a try! I decided to do a spin on tacos with the cactus. You could use chicken or pork, but I opted for a pound of thinly cut ribeye steak that I picked up at Grocery Outlet for $7.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to complete this recipe:
- 1 lb thin steak, such as ribeye or flank steak
- 1 tbsp cumin
- ground pepper
- 1 cup prepared salsa (your choice)
- 1 cup jarred cactus
- cilantro, to taste
- corn tortillas
Start by rubbing the steak with the cumin and ground pepper. Then top with the salsa. I had a verde salsa on hand, so that's what I used. Cover and allow to marinate in your refrigerator for an hour (or more!).
Preheat your broiler when you're ready to assemble the tacos.
How long you will cook the steak depends on two things: 1) the thickness, and 2) your preferred "done-ness" level. I personally have come to enjoy mine just slightly pink, so the meat remains tender. This steak was pretty thin, so I found broiling for 4 minutes on each side (8 minutes total) was perfect. I would encourage you to start with less time on the timer versus more. You can always cook a steak more (but not the other way around).
While your steak is cooking, drain and rinse your cactus.
I then warmed my cactus in a skillet. I didn't add any extra oil or seasoning, but I suppose you could do that if you wanted to. I wanted to enjoy the flavor on its own this time. If you are feeling creative, you might add garlic, peppers, beans, onion, or jalapenos at this point, too.
Here is my steak resting after being broiled. I let it sit on this cutting board for about 5 minutes before cutting it in thin strips across the grain. These two things will help keep your steak nice and tender. (Just like the sliced tender cactus, right?)
Assembling the taco is pretty easy: add some steak strips to the middle of a warmed corn tortilla and layer on the cactus. I topped with plenty of cilantro.
This recipe was delicious! (Yes, I did manage to down BOTH of the tacos pictured above for dinner.) Except for the time spent marinating your steak, it takes relatively short time to cook and put together too.
If you feel you always make the same tacos with plain old ground beef, sour cream, and flour tortillas, try this cactus version instead! And here's a bonus idea for you:
The next time you find yourself in a dinner rut, explore the shelves of your local Grocery Outlet store. You might just find some unusual, fun, or inspiring ingredient to get you excited about creating meals again. In case you missed them, you might want to check out the meals I've previously shared for this series:
Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!
Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.