This year's rains have produced bumper crops galore. . .
It's a bumper year for growers in northern New Mexico, whether you keep a simple kitchen garden of herbs or cultivate acres of crops, including tomatoes, squash, chile, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, apples, peaches and more.
We've enjoyed record-setting rainfalls in Santa Fe this spring and summer, making 2015 the fourth wettest year on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To date, this year's rainfall amounts to a whopping 119% more than on average, a friendly chap at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque recently told me. This is all good news for growers and explains why our yards look like jungles and our gardens are spilling over with tomatoes, zucchini, beans and a bounty of other edible plants.
Even if you don't have your own garden, you can't help but admire the array of bumper crops at the local farmers' markets, where piles of colorful heirloom tomatoes, aromatic green chile, leafy arugula and spinach and ripe round peaches beg to be brought home and turned into summer salads, sauces, entrees, desserts and more.
The possibilities are endless....sliced tomatoes served with creamy burrata and drizzled with olive oil; sauteed green beans with crispy shallots; juicy watermelon tossed with feta and mint; and—one of my favorites—a salad of sliced peaches , arugula and crispy bacon tossed with olive oil and seasoned rice wine vinegar. These dishes are perfectly paired with grilled local, grass-fed beef and organic chicken. And for dessert, try a rustic cherry tart or a peach or apple and green chile pie. Or simply serve sliced fresh peaches or cherries with a scoop of homemade ice cream.
If you need inspiration, ask the farmer whose food you purchase about their favorite way of cooking it, and they'll happily share a recipe or two as well as tips on growing it, if you're interested in gardening.
This is the time to savor summer's bounty, and this year we're lucky to have such an amazing abundance of fresh, healthy fare. Take advantage of it by feasting to your heart's delight and by sharing some of your own homegrown foods with your friends and neighbors who don't have gardens. They will be forever grateful for the delicious flavors of summer!
Here's a recipe from Roland Richter of Joe's Dining that provides a great way to use up all the purslane growing this summer. “It looks like a weed and people don't know what to do with it,” he says. I've never eaten purslane before, so I asked him why he likes eating it. “Because it's there,” he explained, with a hearty laugh, adding that he uses only the tips of the plant as they are smaller and tender. “Their succulent texture and almost citric, sour flavor adds great dimension to a stir fry or any salad,” he added “And I mean any salad. It’s another ingredient that usually grows in any backyard during the summer and it’s free. It’s there so just use it.” He also adds it to stir fry dishes in the last seconds of cooking so it doesn't overcook.
Chef Roland Richter's Purslane and Cucumber and Cherry-Tomato Salad (Serves 4)
3 cups peeled, thinly sliced cucumbers
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup purslane leaves
A handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
½ cup of yogurt
½ tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped mint.
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper (black)
¼ teaspoon sugar
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over sliced cucumbers and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse slightly and drain.
In a salad bowl, combine cucumbers with tomatoes and purslane, toss in dressing and serve, garnished with fresh mint leaves.
Prepare dressing by combining all ingredients in small bowl. Toss with salad and serve.
Peach, Arugula and Bacon Salad (Serves 4)
4 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 bunch each baby arugula and baby spinach
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
About 1/4 cup olive oil
About 1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese, optional
Combine peaches, greens and bacon and toss with olive oil and vinegar. Add cheese, if you are using it. The arugula and spinach can be adjusted based on how hungry you are and the dressing measurements can be adjusted according to taste.