Cactus fruit salsa
By Betty Cortina, NBC Latino

It isn’t every day you discover an entirely new ingredient, something you had no idea existed let alone tasted this good. But that’s exactly what happened to us, the NBC Latino crew, while we attended the Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Flavor, American Kitchens conference last week in San Antonio.

It happened when we stepped into the kitchen with Roberto Santibañez, the chef-owner of New York’s Fonda restaurants (in Brooklyn and Manhattan) and author of “Truly Mexican” and the soon-to-be released “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales.” First, he taught us to call the ingredient by its name: xoconostle. (Pronounced: choko-nose-leh.) It is, he went on, the fruit of the cactus plant and similar to a prickly pear, which in recent years has grown in popularity, its sweet flesh often used to flavor margaritas. But the xoconostle is sour and tart instead and typically used to make salsas in Mexico.

Interesting! I wonder what that is. I’ve never heard that name for a cactus fruit. But first the recipe:

Salsa de xoconostle/cactus fruit salsa

1 pound xoconostles (about 9)
2 small dried chipotle chiles, or 5 dried árbol chiles, wiped clean
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
Kosher salt, to taste

Simple! Click through for the instructions.

And now, for your fun and kicks, the xoconostle is the fruit from the Opuntia joconostle. It looks similar to tunas, but it tastes different, and most importantly the seeds are all grouped in the center rather than spread throughout the flesh.

Nice!