One of my favorite quick sandwich spots in Denver is Torta Grill, at 1818 East Colfax Avenue. It's a small shop that you might pass by without noticing, but that tiny kitchen turns out really good traditional torta sandwiches stuffed full of great ingredients.
One of my favorite tortas there is the only vegetarian sandwich on the menu: It's called the Enrique sandwich, and it's made with cactus (or nopal, if your Spanish is decent).
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to try cooking with cactus. I didn't know where to find it (hint: pretty much any Latin market) and didn't have the first clue how to prepare it. Once you get the hang of it, though, it's pretty easy and worth the small amount of prep work.
After working on this sandwich, cactus is my new favorite vegetarian filler for sandwiches — or just about anything you can stuff full of ingredients. Let's all agree to add cactus to our shopping list; it's delicious, and you should definitely try it.
Watch my latest DIY Takeout video to see how easy it is to make a cactus-filled torta at home. Keep reading for the recipe below.
Homemade Cactus Torta
Makes 1 large torta
Total time: 15 minutes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cactus
1/2 small jalapeño, sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg
2 ounces panela cheese, sliced thin
1 bolillo roll, toasted
Salt and pepper
1. Secure one end of your cactus leaf with something to protect your hand from the needles. Use a sharp knife to remove the needles by scraping them off both sides of the cactus leaf. Then trim off the edges. The cactus should be completely smooth. Then chop the cactus into short strips.
2. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and cactus. Cook until cactus releases its liquid and that cooks off. The cactus will turn an olive color, which should take about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. When the sticky cactus liquid is cooked off, add jalapeños and red onion to the skillet. Toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
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4. Crack an egg in the skillet and scramble it into the cactus mixture.
4. When the egg is cooked, turn the heat down to low on the skillet. Scoop the filling into a pile and top with cheese slices. Cover the skillet and let the cheese melt for a minute.
5. Toast bread and spread avocado on one half of the roll. Then add the hot cactus filling and garnish liberally with fresh cilantro. Serve while warm!
Have an idea for a dish to re-create for DIY Takeout? Leave a comment or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.