ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In case you’ve blinked, it’s August. And that means there are at least five things related to local food you might want to know about:
1) National Farmers’ Market Week is happening this week;
2) It’s Local Food Connects N.M. Month;
3) It’s time to start thinking about what will be in your kids’ lunch boxes;
4) School cafeterias are buying more New Mexico-grown produce than ever;
5) And chile season is here!
No. 5: Chile Season! This is one crop that gets all New Mexicans buying local and filling their freezers. Whether you prefer your chile from Chimayó, Hatch, Blanco, San Antonio, Deming, or anywhere in between, nothing gets our collective culinary juices going like fresh roasted chile.
While you’ll have to wait until Sept. 21 for the first annual statewide New Mexico Chile Taste-Off, mark your calendar for the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex, where attendance will be free, and chile growers from across the state will compete for bragging rights. The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association will be co-sponsoring this event with the New Mexico Chile Association, and city and county of Socorro. Details at nmchiletasteoff.com.
Meanwhile, find your favorite local chile and start stocking up. While you probably have your favorite family recipes lined up, try the very easy and delicious Mac & Cheese with Green Chile recipe below. You don’t have to be a kid to love this one
No. 4: School Cafeterias Go Local: School lunches have come a long way. Putting a healthy meal on a plate for about $1.80 (including milk and protein) is never
easy, but state funding for Farm to School means school districts have extra money to purchase locally grown produce from farmers. New Mexico’s Farm to School program has been growing steadily over the past decade and, this year, the New Mexico Public Education Department expects local produce sales to increase by 20% over last year’s $1.15 million.
If your children or grandchildren are in school, there’s a good chance that they will be enjoying locally grown apples, melons, carrots, peaches, lettuce, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, chile and pinto beans at school this year. With more than 171,538 kids eating local last year, this program is helping keep our kids, farmers and communities get healthy.
No. 3: School Lunch Boxes: You may still have a few weeks before school starts, but sending a healthy lunch can be challenging. Kids are more likely to eat what they see you eat, so keep that in mind as you cut up fresh fruits and vegetables.
Get your kids involved in choosing their lunch to get them excited about what they’re eating. At the farmers’ market or grocery store, let them choose the produce they want for the week and they will be more likely to eat it.
If you have a picky eater, try lunch containers with sections so that you can pack a little of this, and a little of that. A handful of nuts, a stack of carrot sticks, a pile of sliced apples, and some crackers and cheese, for example, can make a great lunch that is fun to eat. If your kids are old enough to handle a thermos, consider packing a homemade soup like the Quick and Easy Vegetable Soup that you can prepare ahead on the weekend.
No. 2: Local Food Connects NM Month: Join Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in recognizing what makes August special in New Mexico. Whether you’re looking for fresh produce, meats, cheeses or specialty products, the variety and
volume explodes in August, and will stay strong through September. Look for the foods you’ve been waiting all year for, such as corn, heirloom tomatoes, melons, peaches, green beans, cucumbers and more.
Ready to make a quick and delicious Heirloom Tomato Galette? Not only is the two-ingredient crust super simple to make, but also you can change up the tomatoes to highlight eggplant, onions, or other seasonal favorites. The variations are endless: try homemade pesto in place of the ricotta, or substitute goat cheese to accompany some roasted beets.
This month, be sure you fully explore local: try one new locally produced food each week, find a grocery store with locally grown produce, support a restaurant that buys local, or say hello to a farmer or two. However you choose to do it, this is the perfect time to see how local food truly connects New Mexico.
No. 1: National Farmers’ Market Week: Nothing surpasses buying food directly from the people who grow it, and your nearest growers market provides a great
community gathering place. Celebrating National Farmers Market Week highlights the important work of local farmers, ranchers and food producers who work hard to bring us fresh, healthy foods all year long.
Did you know that most of the fresh produce sold at New Mexico growers markets is picked within 24 hours of your visit? And food that’s harvested when it’s ripe – rather than when it’s ready for shipping across the country – is also more nutritious. Peak season means it’s the most affordable time to stock up on your favorites, so remember to bring a cooler, and have fun. And be sure to check for special events at your local market this week, too! It doesn’t get much better than this.
GREEN CHILE MAC AND CHEESE
Creamy and flavorful, this green chile macaroni and cheese will change the way you think about macaroni and cheese. There’s no need to make a roux, so it’s one of the easiest things you can make, too!
Yield: 6 servings
1 package (13.25 oz) whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3-½ cup roasted green chiles, chopped
1¾ cups low-fat milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray or grease a casserole dish or a 9 by 13 pan. Cook macaroni as directed on the package in salted water until tender, drain. While macaroni is cooking, combine 2½ cups of cheese with flour and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour mixture with hot macaroni and green chiles, and stir to combine. Pour into the greased pan. Pour milk over macaroni. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil or casserole lid.
Bake for 45 minutes (taking the foil off after 30 minutes if desired) or until firm and golden brown. You want to make sure there isn’t a lot of runny milk still there, so poke a knife in the middle if necessary. Some will soak in as it cools, but it should be mostly absorbed.
Notes: If you like a softer noodle, cover this with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking, or even the entire baking time. If you like super crispy noodles, you can cook uncovered the entire time. Want a little extra spice? Try this recipe with pepper jack cheese.
Recipe adapted from: www.rachelcooks.com
QUICK AND EASY VEGETABLE SOUP
While you might not think kids will like this tomato-based soup, corn and carrots bring out the sweetness. Homemade broth and fresh tomatoes are always better, when available. If your kids are old enough to handle a knife, have them help chop the vegetables and be your sous chef!
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (11.5 ounce) can tomato-vegetable juice cocktail
1 cup water
1 large potato, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery diced
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh green beans
1 cup fresh corn kernels
Salt and pepper, to taste
Creole seasoning, to taste (optional)
In a large stock pot, combine broth, tomato juice, water, potatoes, carrots, celery, undrained chopped tomatoes, green beans and corn.
Season with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning, if desired. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
Source: Adapted from: allrecipes.com
HEIRLOOM TOMATO GALETTE
You might be tempted to turn this into a pizza, but resist the urge! New Mexico’s tomatoes are hitting their stride and this simple recipe lets their delicious, fresh taste shine through. This recipe comes together more quickly than you’d think, thanks to the very versatile two-ingredient dough.
Servings: Makes two, two-serving galettes
For the dough:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 to 1½ cups all-purpose flour AND 1 tsp baking powder (or just use self-rising flour without the baking powder)
For the galette:
½ cup ricotta cheese, drained (or you can purchase “firm” ricotta)
½ cup grated parmesan
About 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes (you can use halved cherry tomatoes or sliced traditional tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg yolk, for the glaze
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Coat a cookie sheet with olive oil, or line it with parchment paper and dust with flour.
Wash the tomatoes, slice, and set aside.
Place the yogurt in a bowl and add the baking powder, if using.
Add the flour to the yogurt, half a cup at a time, and mix thoroughly until soft dough forms. Once the dough becomes manageable by hand, put it on a clean counter and kneed the dough in, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes barely sticky. Set aside.
When the dough can be picked up, add more flour slowly until it becomes easy to work with.
Mix together the ricotta and parmesan cheeses in a bowl and set aside.
Cut the dough in half and, using floured hands, press into two 8″ rounds.
Place rounds onto the cookie sheet.
Put half of the cheese mixture into the middle of each dough-round and flatten to within 2″ of the dough’s rim.
Press the tomatoes into the cheese mixture.
Using your fingers, fold the two-inch rim over the tomatoes, and pinch intermittently to seal.
Brush the egg yolk over the crust.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Recipe: Christina Keibler, The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association (2019)