The inspiration for this very untypical Mexican meal was the arrival of prickly pear cactuses at Fairway... I unassumingly bought a few, just to see what they were. Well, one thing led to another, and I was preparing a complex meal from scratch. Before I could even begin, there was a shopping list of new ingredients to fulfill. Luckily, Tulcingo del Valle in the Hell's Kitchen was a one-stop shop for everything from grated coconut and tomatillos, to avocado leaves and, of course, dried chiles.Some of the ingredients fascinated me - the chipotle and ancho peppers with their complex smoky smell and deep-deep red, almost black, color. Avocado leaves with their crisp anise aroma. Sticky tomatillos hiding in their brittle shells. And finally - the pear cactuses - with their bright maroon coloring and a rather mild flavor.So, it's no surprise I went so snap-happy! It was an epic four-hour experiment, the results of which just vanished in one memorable, but fleeting meal.