Dressing up for winter market

Dressing up for winter market
Ari LeVaux - 12/20/2018

The farmers markets of summer get all the glory, but pound for pound, the winter markets have more guts. These off-season centers of homegrown commerce run from about Halloween through Easter, and are like distillations of their summer counterparts, giving farmers the chance to make a little money, while offering locals an opportunity to buy some produce. Like some secret society for extra-cheerful and healthy people, those who know about the winter market show up while the rest of the world watches cartoons.

The web page LocalHarvest.org provides online tools to help farmers thrive and maintains a database of active farmers markets in the United States. According to LocalHarvest’s Guillermo Payet, there are about 4,700 summer markets nationwide, compared to 1,911 winter markets. He recently added a winter market search feature to the LocalHarvest page, so shoppers can easily find the winter market closest to them.

Winter markets are smaller, cuter and cozier, with more hot cocoa on tap. Like a summer market, the winter market is like a big, living microchip of the farming community. You find out who died, who got pregnant, who grew a beard, and who went to Costa Rica. Like a fire in the dark, winter markets provide heat and light when it’s needed the most.

My winter market in Montana, which takes place in the senior center, which has a thrift store in the basement, is flush with “normal” cold weather crops like potatoes, squash, onions and garlic, not to mention animal and value-added products like bacon, pickles, cheese and eggs. But thanks to advances in cold-weather horticulture, and with a little help from a warming climate, there are now summery foods available, like celery, tomatoes and apples, not to mention tropical foods like lemongrass.

But the stars of the winter market are the winter greens, that large and delicious green spectrum of leaves like spinach, tatsoi, arugula, broccoli, kale and leafy cabbages like Napa. These greens, planted during the dog days of summer, came of age in cooler, shorter days. Under these conditions, plants build themselves differently. They are smaller but sturdier, denser and crunchier. Maybe it’s the bleak context in which they appear, but wintergreens emanate a vitality that you can see and taste, like earthy, bitter candies.

Here are three recipes to help you enjoy the winter greens in season today. These dressings will also benefit many non-green crops of winter too, like radishes or cauliflower. And when the time comes, these salad sauces will help us enjoy the bounty of summer.

This first recipe comes from Cheryl Marchi, proprietress of the Crazy Mountain Inn, a 117-year-old boarding house in Martinsdale, Mont., where Calamity Jane once stayed. The Inn’s living room boasts a glorious wood stove that warms that room like a winter market warms a community. The adjacent cafe? is the toast of Meagher County and where I first tasted Marchi’s blue cheese salad dressing.

It’s thick enough to use as a dip, but not so thick that your shirt won’t look as splattered as mine does after dipping cauliflower florets too impatiently. Marchi likes it with onion-y dishes, as a dip for onion rings, or to hold the grilled onions in place on a French dip sandwich.

Crazy Mountain Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 c milk
31⁄2 cups Best Foods mayo 6 ounces Gorgonzola
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
Lots of fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
Set a third of the Gorgonzola aside. Blend everything else together. Break apart the unblended chunk of Gorgonzola into little chunks and stir it in. Let it sit for a bit, preferably overnight.

This second recipe comes courtesy of Flower Child vegan restaurant chain. This sauce is an emulsion, meaning it won’t separate after you mix it up. In other words, it’s basically lemon tahini mayo, which is pretty special. If you add a yolk it will emulsify even thicker, but that of course would cause the dressing to lose its veganity.

The dressing also contains nutritional yeast, aka “Hippy Dust,” which seems appropriate for a restaurant called Flower Child. The yeast confers a meaty strength to the dressing, which isn’t surprising because Hippy Dust is 100 percent yeast meat.

If your garlic is large of clove, like mine, you might not want to use the full eight cloves called for. Use your best judgement, but no fewer than three cloves. The acid, sweetness, saltiness and richness of this dressing makes it a great blanket to a pile of earthy leaves.

Flower Child Lemon Tahini Dressing

8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 1⁄2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard 2 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1⁄4 c extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 c grapeseed oil
Put the first seven ingredients in a blender and process on medium speed for 15 seconds. While the machine is running, slowly pour in the oils until emulsified. Place in covered container in refrigerator.

And lastly, my wife is convinced that every homemade salad dressing needs more salt, and I think she may have a point. Her go-to dressing is basically oil and vinegar, plus soy sauce.

Mrs. LeVaux’s All-Purpose Dressing

1 cup extra virgin olive oil 1⁄2 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup lime or lemon juice 1⁄4 cup balsamic

Combine ingredients, dress or dip your salad. If dipping, replenish the oil as necessary.

This dressing is especially good on bitter vegetables, like radicchio. The flavors of the dressing engage those of the greens on many levels, disarming and charming those tasty winter greens, leafing you wanting more.

Top Shelf

Indie rock'n'roller, uptown jazz and math rock
Indie rock'n'roller, uptown jazz and math rock
By Chris Aaland
02/21/2019

When did you first discover Martha Scanlan? For me, it was around 2001, when her old-time bluegrass outfit, Reeltime Travelers, began appearing on the festival circuit, playing the old Silverton Jubilee, the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, Telluride Bluegrass and RockyGrass.

Heart strings, infamous strings & belly laughs
Heart strings, infamous strings & belly laughs
By Chris Aaland
02/14/2019

Life sure keeps you busy. My boy, Otto – fresh off being named to the honor roll! – turned 12, requiring a night out with the family Tuesday.

Boring Bowl, The Dude sells out & Hillbilly Poetry
Boring Bowl, The Dude sells out & Hillbilly Poetry
By Chris Aaland
02/07/2019

Now that was boring. Not only was Sunday’s Super Bowl the lowest scoring ever, but it was my first completely sober Super Bowl since 1986 ... and I was 17 then.

Snowdown's greatest hits
Snowdown's greatest hits
By Chris Aaland
01/31/2019

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably noticed a number of people flying about downtown dressed in masks and capes. It’s Snowdown week! This year’s theme is “Get Your Comic On,” which brings a bit of Comic-Con to our quaint mountain borough.

Read All in Top Shelf

Day in the Life

Earth tones
Earth tones
By Stephen Eginoire
02/21/2019

Tired of looking at harsh, reflective white? Then feast your eyes on the gentler, subtler hues of winter. For most, winter brown is an acquired taste.

Rollin' a fattie
Rollin' a fattie
By Stephen Eginoire
02/14/2019

The 5th annual Silverton Whiteout kicked off last Saturday as fat bikers from ’round the hood and beyond rode lap after lap on a well-groomed 9.2-mile loop for 10 straight hours.

A bunch of comics: A look at the Snowdown that was
A bunch of comics: A look at the Snowdown that was
02/07/2019

Well, there you have it folks. Durango’s 41st Snowdown celebration is in the bag. 

Taking off the Chill
Taking off the Chill
By Stephen Eginoire
01/31/2019

With the shortest days of year in the rearview mirror, the sun a little higher and the days a little longer, our orientation toward the sun favors less chilly walks in the great outdoors, and certainly less GoreTex (on a nice day, of course.)

Read All in Day on the Life