Home Chef Notes The Winter Farmers’ Market, Lexington, KY

The Winter Farmers’ Market, Lexington, KY

Surprises Await At the Winter Market

By Tom Yates

Early last Saturday morning, I planned to quietly slip out of the house for a quick trip to the indoor winter farmers’ market.  Although it’s a fairly short walk from our house, I decided to drive because it was freezing outside. I grabbed my Martha Stewart market-designated canvas tote bag and drove down our driveway.  After two or three thumpity thumps, I realized I had a flat tire. Great.  It was really early, very cold, and I was dressed like an unkempt overly bundled up character from a wintertime South Park episode. All bundled up with nowhere to go. Bliss.

I love the serenity of the indoor winter farmers’ market. It was calm and quiet with gentle guitar music humming through hidden speakers. It felt great to be back at the market.

Quarles Farm had canned vegetables, salsas, chow-chows, relishes, breads, and coffee cakes. Even at 9:00 a.m. , I couldn’t resist a taste of their stewed beef wafting  heavenly aromas from cranked up slow cookers.  Samples? Sure.

Perched on a higher level overlooking the other vendors, Elmwood Farm offered the motherload of the indoor market.  They had the usual suspects; baskets of watermelon radishes, beets, turnips, black radishes, sweet potatoes, collard greens, winter squash, gorgeous celeriac, garlic, organic eggs, and chicken.

I was totally surprised by bags of fresh English Bordeaux spinach.  Really?  In January? With deep green lacy leaves highlighted by bright red veins and stems, the spinach reminded me of  delicate swiss chard. Apparently, it’s a hardy variety that grows profusely until temperatures dip into the teens. They actually harvested their spinach during our latest snowfall! It was still damp….from the snow. Wow.

I filled my bag with organic eggs, spinach, Stripetti squash, garlic, and sweet potatoes before driving home.

It’s been a while since our kitchen countertops were covered with market booty. I was giddy and couldn’t wait to play with my stash.

I wanted to try something different with the small sweet potatoes, so I adapted a recipe from Fine Cooking and threw together individual sweet potato and goat cheese galettes.  Crazy, right? Goat cheese and sweet potatoes? Weird,  fascinating, fabulous, and a far cry from sweet potato casserole.

Before getting started, I slushed  through our snow-covered back deck to snip handfuls of fresh thyme and chives. I pulled out my mandolin and sliced the sweet potatoes into thin rounds. After buttering small individual ramekins, I filled them with alternating layers of sweet potatoes, parmigiano reggiano, crumbled goat cheese, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper before ending with a final layer of goat cheese.

After preheating the oven to 375 degrees, I placed the galettes onto a foil-lined sheet pan and slid them into the oven to bake alongside a pan of  roasting whole grape tomatoes.

Because  the individual galettes were small, I checked on them frequently.  I burn stuff…a lot. Really. Yep. After 45 minutes, they were beautifully browned and tender, so I pulled them from the oven to rest.

Pomegranate Molasses-Glazed Smoked Pork Chops.

I cranked a cast iron grill pan over high heat until it was smoking hot  and tossed two smoked boneless pork chops onto the grill to cook through. While the chops caramelized on the grill, I brushed them generously with a thick ruby red glaze made with 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, the juice of a fresh lemon, and a splash of red wine. The glaze seared onto the  pork flesh like molten lava, sealing the juices inside while encrusting it in a sweet tart candied pomegranate shell.  Just before the pork chops combusted, I pulled them from heat and slid them into a low oven to keep warm.

After a glass of wine or three, I gave the snow-kissed spinach a quick rinse before sauteing it in olive oil with minced garlic, shallots, and julienned red bell peppers.

I plated the wilted garlicky spinach and nestled the sweet potato goat cheese galettes into the spinach nests.  After scattering fresh julienned red peppers over the spinach and galettes, I slid the tart sticky pomegranate glazed pork chops onto our plates before tumbling roasted grape tomatoes to the side. Lemon zest and sliced chives finished them off.

Ok. So, here’s the deal.  It was a ridiculous riot of flavor. Really. The earthy spinach balanced the tart sweet moistness of the pork chops with bits of pungent garlic, sweet red pepper, and meltingly soft shallots. When sliced, the plump roasted grape tomatoes popped their sweet wet juices over  the pork, creating a bonus sauce. Win. The sweet potato goat cheese galettes were ridiculous.  Oh. My. The cheeses didn’t ooze or drip.  It wasn’t about that. The galettes were delicate, soft, and sweet. The nutty parmigiano added subtle saltiness while the fresh thyme provided floral undertones. The goat cheese profoundly elevated the simple  galettes to another  level. Suspended between layers of thinly sliced sweet potatoes, the soft goat cheese had the mouthfeel of tangy soft marshmallows. Air pillows. Clouds. Fabulous.


Check out the indoor winter farmers’ market.

It’s full of surprises.


Chef Tom’s food and cooking column appears on page 11 of the print issue of Ace.

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