Spices. Sausages. Apples. Eggs in speckled blues and browns. Organic lamb. Chutneys and jams. Baskets of tiny arugula leaves. Whole pastured chickens. Loaves of artisan bread. These are just some of the reasons to visit the winter farmers' market. We might not have summer's wild bounty these days, but we are lucky to have local farms still bringing us a small trove of edible treasures.
When you walk into the market, the trays of living sprouts at the Sungreen stall stand out like lushly inviting fields. Try the crunchy and substantial sunflower sprouts, or the lemony buckwheat sprouts, or the pea shoots which taste like spring. And since Susan cuts them for you right there, you won't find a fresher green anywhere-winter or summer.
Down the aisle South Mountain Dairy has a table of tempting goat cheeses, with plenty of free tastes. The goats aren't milking this time of year, but there are jars of marinated feta, rich and spicy, and wheels of creamy Havarti-style cheeses which just get better and better as the months go by. Right across from their table sit barrels of Jonathans and Granny Smiths from Eve's Farm, suggesting a natural pairing.
And there's plenty of meat. One of the benefits of shopping for meat at the winter farmers' market is the amazing variety of cuts available. Pecos Valley Grassfed Beef offers more than 30 cuts, from the familiar steaks and roasts, to the more unusual. (Have you ever made tongue? Heart?) Winter is a great time to try a new dish, one that showcases a cut of meat you don't find at the store, and celebrates the quality of a local farm.
Here are some recipes for winter treats made from farmers' market ingredients. Eating locally these days is not only possible here in Northern New Mexico, it's delicious, too.
Visit the market: open from 9-1 on Saturdays, at 519 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe.
This recipe for a robust, wintry stew utilizes the rich-and often overlooked-oxtail. The dish cooks slowly for hours without fuss, allowing the marrow to break down, and yielding a meltingly succulent stew. My friend Emma, who's from England originally, stirs in a can of Heinz baked beans before serving. The beans add a nice texture contrast to the tender meat. Serve this with some small potatoes, steamed to softness and sprinkled with parsley.
Place the oxtails in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread a layer of flour on a plate and, working in batches, dust the oxtails with the flour.
Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a heavy 5- to 6-quart casserole over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the oxtails all over until richly browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch, transferring the browned oxtails to a large bowl.
Add 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil and the onion, garlic, carrots, leeks and mushrooms to the casserole. Cook until softened and browned, about 7 minutes, adding the remaining oil and adjusting the heat if needed. Add the paprika and stir for a few seconds. Add the brandy, scraping the bottom of the casserole to dislodge the brown bits. Add the bay leaf, thyme, 2 cups wine, chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil, skimming any foam off the surface. Season with salt, and return the oxtails and their juices to the casserole. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer until oxtails are very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (The stew can be prepared to this point a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)
Skim as much fat as possible off the top of the stew, then reheat slowly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the oxtails to a bowl. Add remaining 1/2 cup wine to the stew, increase the heat to high, and cook until nicely thickened, 15 minutes. Return oxtails to casserole, and cook until heated through, 2 minutes.
From Anya von Bremzen, The New Spanish Table (New York: Workman, 2005.)
This is what I was inspired to make after my last trip to the winter market. It's a dish that uses (almost!) only ingredients from the winter market, and really lets the ingredients shine. The lamb is moist, the arugula pleasantly peppery, the farmhouse chutney adds sweetness and spice, and the fresh bread soaks up all the juices. These little toasts are perfect before a light meal, or made into more substantial sandwiches-a meal unto themselves. You will need:
Lay the small leg of lamb in a roasting pan. Rub it all over with olive oil, a little crushed garlic, and some oregano. Set it aside for an hour to let the flavors penetrate.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Roast the lamb until it is still pink inside (15 minutes per pound, plus an extra 20 minutes), then let it rest on the stove top covered loosely with foil for 15 minutes.
Carve the lamb thinly, and pile it on toasted baguette slices with a few arugula leaves. Top each one with a spoonful of chutney. Enjoy!
A galette is a rustic, open-faced pie, made free-form instead of in a pan. It is a simple yet dramatic way to showcase the last of fall's sweet apples. Bring the galette to the table still warm, with thick slices of local cheese alongside. Apples and Havarti are a perfect cold-weather combination, the cool creaminess of the interior-ripened cheese matching the warm acidity of the fruit. This is farm-style cooking at its best.
Mix the flour, salt, and sugar together in a bowl. Cut in butter by hand or using a mixer with a paddle attachment, leaving some pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle the ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press it into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Thinly slice the apples and toss them with the sugar and cinnamon.
To form a galette, roll the dough out on a lightly floured counter into a 14-inch irregular circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold it into quarters and transfer it to the back of a sheet pan or a cookie sheet without sides. Unfold it. Mound the fruit in the center, leaving a border 2-4 inches wide. Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, pleating as you go, partially covering the apples. Brush with melted butter, pouring any extra butter over the apples, and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake until the crust is richly glazed and the apples are tender, about 45 minutes.
Serve with thick slices of havarti-style goat cheese.
Adapted from Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (New York: Broadway Books, 1997.)