Celebrating New Mexico Foodways

New Mexico is known for many things, from its rich history encompassing the Pueblo people, Billy the Kid and the Wild West, to its unique landscape, the Manhattan Project and the Roswell “incident.” But lately, New Mexico has become known around the world for its distinctive foods, and Raton author Sharon Niederman's new book The New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook (The Countryman Press) beautifully demonstrates why.

Featuring 100 home-grown recipes from the Land of Enchantment, and gorgeous, mouth-watering photographs by Santa Fe photographer Kitty Leaken, The New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook (documents “the foodways of family farms, traditional small ranches, mom-and-pop cafes, farmers' markets, and fine spirited restaurants that showcase locally sourced ingredients,” as the book's intro says. “If food is our best medicine, they are good medicine indeed, nourishing both body and soul.”

From Mora to Mesilla, Cloudcroft to Cimarron, and Pie Town to Pueblo villages, Niederman and Leaken take us to remote villages and mountain-top ranches, big cities and small towns, highlighting ancient farming methods as well as contemporary understandings of cultivation and water use, Pueblo Feast Days, the world's largest pistachio nut, and so much more.

You'll meet Carla Gomez, who ranches and farms at 9,000 feet above Mora. “She is the Earth Mother, in terms of nurturing her animals and vegetables,” Niederman told me in a recent interview. “Everything is fresh and she produces the most delicious beef I've ever had.” And high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Taos County you'll find Kristen Davenport Katz and her husband Avrum Katz of Boxcar Farm growing potatoes, winter squash, peas, greens, and more.

The New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook is a reflection of the fact that New Mexico food is so far beyond red and green chile and there is no end in sight to the commitment and creativity of the chefs, each making their own statement,” Niederman said.”If you're a person who loves food and you don't make a pilgrimage to New Mexico, you're really missing it.”

Niederman has spent the past 20 years making her own pilgrimage to places around the state, seeking and finding inspiration that feeds her body and soul. “New Mexico is my muse, and my muse is especially lively when I get on the road , and head out and explore . Ideas rise up and seem to either give me a kiss or a pat on the head—they rise up to meet me, that's for sure. Iv'e seen people of all ages growing food joyously in the fields, and preparing it in kitchens and for me, it's really strengthened my understanding that this is New Mexico.”

During her road trips criss-crossing the state, Niederman has marveled at the age-old passion rooted in generations of families for producing food that is healthful and delicious. “I see an ethos that has been in place for generations,” she says. “Everybody's on the same page. They buy from local growers and they always have. Whereas the rest of the world has been discovering this, it's simply what a lot of people have been doing in New Mexico all along—producing with pride the finest chile, the finest ingredients, and combining them in ways that are traditionally New Mexican, but with their own twist, like the Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita served at La Posta in Mesilla...eating well is a growth industry in New Mexico.”

The New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook (will inspire you to head out on New Mexico's byways and highways in search of the little cafes and farm stands, the growers and greengrocers, the ranchers and restaurants all offering fresh and fine foods that will not only fill you up, they'll leave you feeling happy and marveling at all that grows from the region's rocky mountain slopes and arid desert fields. And the recipes will provide you with endless hours of creative cooking in your kitchen. Below are just a few to whet your appetite for this wonderful addition to New Mexico cookbooks

You can pick up your copy and meet the author and photographer at Collected Works in Santa Fe on Wednesday June 17 at 6 p.m. They'll also be at Bookworks in Albuquerque on Saturday, June 20 at 3 pm; Moby Dickens in Taos on July 11 at 2 pm; and at Book Haven in Salida, Colorado on July 14 at 6:30 p.m. To learn more about the author and upcoming book events, visit http://www.sharonniederman.com/.

Los Poblanos Pound Cake French Toast (Yields 2 loaves; 4-6 servings per loaf)
For the cake:
7 ½ ounces salted butter, room temperature
5 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups cane sugar
6 large eggs, plus 3 large egg yolks
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ¼ cups low-fat buttermilk

For the French toast:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 large eggs, beaten
Sufficient melted unsalted butter to keep the pan well buttered during cooking
Pure maple syrup, for serving
Confectioner's sugar, for serving
Sliced fresh fruit, for serving

Prepare the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Im the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on low speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the olive oil. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with additions of the buttermilk.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are browned on top and spring back when pressed lightly with your finger, 50 to 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Peel off the paper. Let the cakes cool completely upright on a wire rack.

Prepare the French toast: Slice the cooled cake (good the next day) into 3/4-inch slices. Soak in mixture of the cream and beaten eggs. Sauté in melted butter until both sides are golden brown. Serve immediately with maple syrup, powdered sugar and sliced fresh fruit.

Johnny Vee's Buffalo Empanadas (Serves 6, about 24 turnovers)
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) very cold butter or lard
2 large eggs
¼ cup chilled white wine

For the filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground buffalo (ground lamb may be substituted)
2 tablespoons crushed caribe chile
1 tablespoon ground mild New Mexico red chile
1 tablespoon ground hot New Mexico red chile
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons toasted ground cumin
½ teaspoons fresh Mexican oregano, or ½ teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup water

Prepare the dough: Sift together the flour, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, blend in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and wine. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Incorporate the liquid into the flour and knead to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole or clay pot and when very hot, add the ground buffalo, breaking it up with a large spoon. Sauté until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, lime juice and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the chile mixture over the meat, stir and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Allow to cool before filling the empanadas.

To assemble the empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured pastry board, roll out the chilled dough to 1/8-inch thick and cut into circles 3-inches in diameter. Moisten the edge of each circle with a little water and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center. Fold in half and crimp the edges to seal the empanada. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. The dough may be rerolled. (Leftover filling may be used for tacos.)

Place empanadas on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve with Creamy Tomatillo Salsa.

Creamy Tomatillo Salsa (Makes 2 ½ cups salsa)
1/2 pound fresh tomatillos
1/3 cup chopped white onion
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Habanero hot sauce

Shuck the tomatillos under cold running water. Quarter them and poach, covered, in boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process the tomatillos until coarsely chopped. Add the onion, lime juice, salt and jalapeño and blend quickly to combine. Stir in the sour cream until smooth.

Pour the salsa in a serving bowl and stir in the cilantro and habanero sauce, to taste. Chill and stir before serving.

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