Lexington’s Winter Farmers’ Market

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by Tom Yates

On February 11th, students from UK’s Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program will be hosting an on-site archiving day at the Lexington Farmers Market. The hope is to gather all current and past vendors, as well as all market supporters, to share their market memories and memorabilia from the past several decades. Students will be collecting oral histories and digitizing images on site.

Early last Saturday morning, I loved 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 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 viens 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 spinach during our latest snowfall!

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 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, while I worked on the main course, Pomegranate Molasses-Glazed Smoked Pork Chops.

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.

The sweet potato goat cheese galettes were ridiculous. 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 marshmellows.

Wow.

Check out Lexington’s  indoor winter farmers’ market.

It’s full of surprises.

On February 11th, students from UK’s Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program will be hosting an on-site archiving day at the Lexington Farmers Market. Victorian Square, 8 am to 1 pm. 

[This article also appears on page 13 of the February 9, 2012 print edition of Ace Weekly.]



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