By October, we’re craving flavors of fall but haven’t completely shed our desire for lighter fare. Try this sampling of dishes inspired by the types of produce you’ll find featured on our urban agritours and elsewhere in the state this month.New Mexico’s Best Fall Snack
Nothing’s much more elemental and evocative of the local harvest season than fresh fire-roasted chile wrapped in a warm tortilla. Sure, you can pick roasted chiles up by the baggie or the bushel at the side of the road or the farmers market, but you can also buy them fresh and handle the roasting duties at home. Que viva!
Serves one (multiply by as many people as you wish to serve)
1 or 2 fresh green New Mexican chiles
1 warm flour tortilla
Salt or garlic saltHolding chiles with tongs, roast over gas burner on stovetop until blackened and blistered (a minute or two). Alternatively, grill chiles on gas or charcoal grill over high heat (5 to 10 minutes). Fresh red pods will turn more dark brown than black. Briefly place chiles in small plastic or paper bag to sweat, so that skins will loosen. When cool enough to handle, peel chiles, using a clean towel to help rub off any stubborn peel. Slice off stem end, then slice chile open to scrape out seeds. Slice into thin strips or chop into chunks. Place in warm tortilla, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy right away.
Vinaigrette’s Harvest Moon Salad
This is a perfect autumn salad, especially the day after a roast chicken or turkey dinner. “It highlights the best flavors of a Thanksgiving-style dinner, but with the refreshing, tangy lightness of a great, well-balanced salad,” says Erin Wade, the dish’s creator, and owner of the Vinaigrette restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and of Los Portales Farm, in Nambé. The salad makes excellent use of the drippings that collect in the bottom of the roasting pan. The sage-perfumed croutons taste like crunchy bites of stuffing.
Serves 4 as main dish
Savory Sage Croutons
4 slices stale country bread, cut into 1/2” cubes
3 tablespoons chicken or turkey fat, briefly reheated to liquefy; or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup drippings reserved from roast chicken or turkey
2 tablespoons fat from roast chicken or turkey
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (grainy or creamy, or a mixture of both)
Approximately 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lightly packed cups kale: one large bunch curly-leaf green kale plus small bunch of darker Tuscan or other kale, stripped of coarse central ribs and chopped very fine
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
6 to 8 ounces leftover chicken or turkey breast or dark meat, diced
3 ounces ricotta salata (or pecorino) cheese cut into thin shards with vegetable peeler
Savory Sage Croutons
1 medium-sized apple, cored and cut into thin slices right before you toss the salad
Lemon Drop Vinaigrette
For croutons: Preheat oven to 350° F. Toss bread cubes with fat to coat, spoon onto baking sheet, and toast in oven about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crunchy. Let cool just slightly, then transfer to mixing bowl. Season generously with dried sage, salt, and pepper.
For dressing: Warm reserved drippings and fat in small sauce pan; when all fats and solids have liquefied, transfer to medium mixing bowl. Whisk in lemon zest, juice, and mustard. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season assertively with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that all salad dressings should taste a bit salty before they go on greens.
For salad: Place kale in large mixing bowl. Toss kale with . of onion and . of dressing. Add about two-thirds of each remaining ingredients, reserving remainder for topping, and toss with as much of remaining dressing as you wish. Turn tossed salad out into large bowl, or onto individual plates, and top with remaining ingredients. Serve right away.
This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Lois Ellen Frank, author of the James Beard Award–winning cookbook Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, where it first appeared. Lois has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from UNM with a focus on Native American food and plants. Her bread, lightly sweet and quite moist, can be served as a snack or toasted at breakfast. Lois’s catering business, Red Mesa Cuisine (redmesacuisine.com), sometimes serves the bread as the basis of a dessert, accompanied by pumpkin ice cream.
Makes 2 loaves
2 cups plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup piñon nuts
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil, preferably, or canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups cooked pumpkin purée (homemade as described below or canned)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 9" loaf pans.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
Spread piñon nuts on baking sheet and toast in preheated oven 3 to 5 minutes, stirring once. Cool completely.
Combine eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla in another bowl. Mix well. Stir in pumpkin purée and dry ingredients, mix well, then fold in piñons.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until bread springs back when touched.
Cool briefly, then run knife around inside of each pan and turn loaves out on baking rack. Turn over loaves so that top sides cool facing up. Slice and serve warm or cool. Bread will keep several days if tightly wrapped.
How to Make Pumpkin Purée:
Select a pumpkin of 2 to 2. pounds, grown for flavor, not for jack-o’-lantern looks. A cheese pumpkin or Acoma squash, or other Pueblo winter squash, can be used.
Cut off stem and slice pumpkin in 4 to 6 wedges. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp.
Place wedges on baking sheet and bake in 350° F oven about 45 minutes, or until soft.
When wedges are cool enough to handle, scoop pumpkin meat away from skins and purée in food processor. Remove any fibrous strings that remain. You should have about 1. cups of pumpkin purée. It’s ready to use, but can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for several months.
Wine-and-Honey– Poached Figs with Fresh Cheese and Herbs
You can serve this as a slightly sweet appetizer or as a slightly savory dessert. The variety of figs doesn’t matter as much as whether they are ripe, but not squishy. Leftovers are scrumptious. For a more filling course, serve with walnut or pecan bread.
Serves 6 or more
One 750-ml bottle (3 cups) white wine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
6 black peppercorns
2 pounds fresh figs
6 ounces creamy fresh goat cheese or fresh ricotta, softened
About 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 big handfuls of basil leaves, of multiple varieties and colors, if available Pour wine into large saucepan and add honey and pepper-corns. Bring mixture to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve honey. Turn heat down to low and gently add figs. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes, stirring gently once or twice to evenly soften figs. Remove figs with slotted spoon and place in bowl. Raise heat under wine syrup to high and reduce liquid by about half. Let syrup cool about 10 minutes, strain out peppercorns if you wish, then pour syrup over figs. Let sit at room temperature an hour, or refrigerate up to 12 hours. Let chilled figs sit at room temperature briefly before serving. Arrange cheese on platter, then spoon figs around it with just a bit of syrup. Drizzle with olive oil, and tuck basil leaves in and around cheese and figs.