feast magazine article

feast magazine, september 2014: prickly pear margarita cookies.

feast magazine, september 2014: prickly pear margarita cookies.

Prickly pears! Less weird than you think, people. Have you had them? If I think about it, I’ve probably seen them skulking around my grocer’s “exotic produce” section for years now. Considering what my grocer deems “exotic,” it almost definitely means you can find them in your area; if you live in California, the Southwest, Michigan (I swear) or Florida, chances are high you’ll wander by them at some point. They may not always look like the google search I know you just did for “images: prickly pears” – those swollen, burgundy orbs are what you’d find if you lived next door to the cacti which produce them – but give them a chance no matter color they are.

feast magazine, september 2014: prickly pear margarita cookies.

This is going to be a short one, because I cover their facts and figures in my Feast article this month. In my humble opinion, the pears are a fabulous way to ring in the (almost) fall: a perfect transitional flavor that combines the intensity and brashness of summer flavor with a deeper richness I reserve for cooler temperatures. Whirl it up into a gorgeous late-summer margarita while you can: it’s certainly one of the best classic ways to showcase the fruit. Oddly enough, this one was a more difficult ingredient to work with in terms of an actual recipe: it’s one of those things you just don’t want to mess with much since the freshness is its everything. I went with an exceedingly practical jam, and tucked it into some lime thumbprint cookies: it’s fresh times two, if you make the pair together (which I suggest you do). Feeling lazy? No desire to turn on the oven yet? Cool by me, but I implore you to make the prickly pear jam if you see some ripe prickly pears near you: it’s a great way to capture their freshness and extend the time you have with them. I didn’t make the jam to go with the cookies: rather, I made the cookies to complement the jam. You can truly use it in any way you would use a jam or preserves: toast (highly recommend), Danish pastries (an unexpected delight), swirled into ice cream or sorbet (magic), or sandwiched in between cake layers (yessss.) A double hit of citrus and a splash of tequila makes the jam vibrant and exciting, yet perfectly acceptable for everyday use.

Here’s the thing with prickly pears: you have to be patient with them. There are several different types of them, ranging in color from green to gold to purple when they ripen, so you may want to talk to the produce manager when you see them; they may be better able to inform you of the specifics. I favor the purple ones which are slightly soft and heavy when lifted, but not mushy or wrinkled. But that’s a ripe prickly pear: often times, you’ll see the green ones which (theoretically) will ripen into the purple orbs you’re dreaming of. Word of caution: this doesn’t always happen correctly, because some pears are indeed green or gold rather than purple when ripe, and others…honestly, I think they get picked too early and they just don’t love this part of the Midwest. So choose wisely, get help from your knowledgeable produce person, or simply wait until you see ripe ones. If you’re from any of the places above, chances are you can walk outside your door and pick these things, so none of this applies to you; if you’re from where I’m from, you’re going to need to strategize. Pro tip: avail yourself of an international or Latin market for these: generally they have the best prickly pears in stock, they tend to be in stock more often, and the produce manager will know for sure how to help you pick the best ones of the pile.

feast magazine, september 2014: prickly pear margarita cookies.

Go read my wee article on these and grab the recipe for the prickly pear margarita cookies while there: I also give you very important safety tips on working with these, no matter where you are: they’re from a cactus plant, so you can guess the phrase “handle with care” comes into play. I can say from personal experience that I’m forgotten this a time or two when buying prickly pears, and have paid the price in very uncomfortable palms. If you’re in the Midwest, chances are you’re getting fruit that has been more carefully stripped of any fiercely annoying glochids than if you lived closer to where they’re grown: I’ve had less of a problem getting stuck locally than I have when I’ve been in say, Florida, where buyers are more familiar, but be careful no matter where you are.

As always, my article on these lives here, and while you’re there, roam around! There are lots of things to see this month, but I haven’t been able to sit down with my own magazine yet to pick my favorite things. Guess what, though: you no longer have to wait for me to tell you whats inside, because now? Subscriptions available! Cheaper than me sending them to you each month, and also you’d actually get them on time versus weeks later. Feast goes regional next month with the October issue, which means more pages, expanded coverage of the area, and more things for you to drool over.

And if you’re just in the mood to veg it out on the sofa, watch the September episode of Feast TV; you’ll still have to go look at my Prickly Pear Margarita Cookies recipe online or in the print edition, but it’s a fun and relaxing half hour of television. Soothing, even, for culinary-minded people like us.

In case you missed the 827 links to my article, here it is. Next up: some oddly delicious cookies and a post-birthday tutorial or two.

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  • Reply elizabeth September 2, 2014 at 7:08 am

    I think this is a fantastic spin on a classic! (Michael loving refers to these as “old-people cookies”) They look somewhat traditional at first glance but with the prickly pear jam you’ve given them a much more modern twist. I’m going to keep my eye out for them at my local store because prickly pear margaritas sound like a wonderful way to transition out of summer and enter fall in a few weeks.

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 5:59 am

      So i sort of love that Michael referred to these as old-people cookies…they SO are! But in a good way; certainly the prickly pear jam makes them totally sneaky, as does the lime, i think. Definitely not your grandma’s thumbprint, although probably your grandma’s thumbprints are frigging delicious. 🙂 I know recently i’ve seen an increase in the good prickly pears, so keep your eyes peeled. Basically anything i make for Feast, if it’s a fresh ingredient, likes to enter stores JUST after i was looking for them to re-shoot photos on, so you can usually time it by publication date. 🙂

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends September 2, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I literally spent about five minutes staring at the prickly pears at the grocery store the other day! I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them, though, because they looked really sad and possibly overripe. I’ll have to keep my eye out, and maybe ask the produce people at whole foods the next time I’m there for how to pick some good ones, because I am DEFINITELY making this prickly pear jam! You had me at lime juice and tequila. 😉

    • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends September 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Okay, update: I found super ripe, super gorgeous prickley pears on my last trip to whole foods, so I snatched them up and made a (mini) batch of this jam. SO GOOD. It captures that delicate flavor so perfectly. I’m already dreaming up all the ways to use it (besides just savoring it right off the spoon). Vanilla ice cream? Yes. Toast? Yes. These cookies? YES. I only wish I had made a bigger batch (but I had other plans for the rest of the prickly pears I bought). Mmm, jam…

      • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:28 am

        I AM SO HAPPY YOU MADE MY JAM!! and i can totally see this working as an ice cream topping, or maybe in a swirl? mmmm. and toast? Been there, done that, DELICIOUS, would do it over and over. All the things! And you’re geographically close to where prickly pears grow (or some species) so the chances of you seeing them in markets may be better than mine.

  • Reply Ashley September 2, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Holy cow, Shannon! I’ve occasionally eyeballed prickly pears and even had a margarita of them when traveling. But I’ve never been bold or knowledgeable enough to actually buy and use them. Now, though, I’m all over it. I NEED these. And that jam….

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

      you have to make this, Ashley: i feel like you would super love it. Anything which tastes like a baby borne of Bubble Yum and watermelons is a must for you, and the jam only intensifies it’s bubble-gumminess.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs September 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I’ve never worked with prickly pears. But I will. 😉 Haven’t read the new issue yet — need to go out and get one! Thanks for this.

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:01 am

      It’s a good thing i keep up with my comments, as now i see the October issue has hit stands as of yesterday *cough, cough* 🙂

  • Reply mellissa @ ibreatheimhungry September 2, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I’ve been the victim of prickly pear stings so many times that I swore I’d never buy them again – these cookies and jam might be enough to make me try them out one more time! Maybe….

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:02 am

      Just wear heavy rubber gloves to the market, Mellissa: no one will look at your like you’re totally crazy, i’m sure. Just be like “hey: a girl’s got to squeeze some prickly pears sometimes, people.”

  • Reply Brianne September 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I bought a dragon fruit at the grocery store after seeing it on your blog. It was…ungood. It tasted like nothing. I was SO sad! So…we have cactus pears at the store, too. Should I take the risk? I’m scared. But regardless, I love this recipe! What a great combination of ingredients and flavors! I have had a prickly pear margarita, and it was delicious. Perhaps buying some is worth the risk… 🙂

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:23 am

      oh no! you know, i don’t have much experience with dragonfruit, so i can’t say what to look/feel for in terms of them being ripe or not ripe: i think i just assumed that in a legit crazy-good farmers market in the middle of the tropics, what they had out was the bomb (and it was). I can see how maybe up there in Maine that the quality or ripeness may be more of a factor, as it is here with some tropical fruits (like mangos: NEVER as good as when i’m in FL). prickly pears grow in some northern climates, so definitely risk it: it may take a few tries, but our stores seem to have a good amount of them in right now.

  • Reply Deb September 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    The glorious deep red of the prickly pear jam is stunning! With jam and no-so-classic thumbprints I’m deep in thought about holiday cookies. A charming cookie!

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Thanks, Deb! i’m also deep in thought about what i’m doing for the holidays this year, mostly in a cookie way, so i totally understand. 🙂

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook September 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Better grab these the next time I go to Arizona. I have only seen them used in jam, jelly or margaritas and often as a glaze on chicken. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:25 am

      AZ is like, prickly pear headquarters: i have that on good authority.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats September 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

    These are so festive and perfect for us here in AZ ~ I love it! My palms have also suffered the wrath of PRICKLY pear… I guess there’s a reason they’re called that…. lol!

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:26 am

      I’d definitely include prickly pear abundance on my list of “things i like about AZ.” if you’re kicking them off driveways, then you guys have good thing going.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Eating Local in the Lou September 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    My mom’s neighbor has a prickly pear cactus that is always in full bloom, loaded with fruit the week we are visiting. I’m always so tempted to sneak over and take a few…if I do, you KNOW I will be making these beauties!

    • Reply shannon September 27, 2014 at 6:26 am

      yay! seriously, steal them next time you’re visiting your mom: Arizonians evidently have so many they don’t know what to do with them, so i bet the neighbor wouldn’t mind.

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