Early winter can be a challenging time to hunt for produce in the farmers market, but if you know what to buy it can be a rewarding venture as well. "I know that everyone always freaks out about summer, but if you are really looking around the farmers market, winter can be just as celebratory," says chef Brad Farmerie of the Manhattan restaurant Public. "You just need to look at it in a new way. It's not just kale, get some sunchokes, get some celeriac and other cool stuff." Farmerie discusses four of his favorite cool-weather fruits and vegetables while giving us a tour through the farmers market.
Sunchoke: Another name for sunchoke is Jerusalem artichoke, but no matter what you call it, this lumpy, slightly long, beige-colored root is delicious and a perfect winter produce to indulge in. Even if the skin looks a little rough, don't bother peeling it off. In fact, the skin gives the sweet root a nice casing that pops when you bite into it, almost like a plump sausage. "I love sunchokes," says Farmerie, who first delighted in them while cooking in London. "My favorite way to prepare them is to cut them in half, blanch in salt water for four to five minutes, toss in olive oil and then do a high-temp roast." There. Simple. Keep in mind, when cooked the flesh of the sunchoke becomes soft, but more like a roasted carrot in texture than its cousin the potato. Look for samples that are firm with intact skin. Then, simply enjoy.
Quince: This lumpy yellow fruit looks a lot like a large, fuzzy pear, not surprising given that it's in the same family. "Quince is another one that tugs on my heart strings," says Farmerie. "It can be made into sweets or desserts, and pairs so well with roasts." The chef recommends an assortment of preparations, from pickling to an Italian-style mostarda to a holiday-themed pie. It's also great as a jam or chutney, an application perfect for this fruit given its high levels of pectin. You want to avoid eating this astringent fruit raw, though there are some varieties such as the Kuganskaya that have been developed so that you can bite into it like an apple. When picking this fruit in the market, you want firm ones that have a light fuzz to them and smell sweet, almost tropical.
Celery Root: There is nothing pretty about this rough, brown root, but like the Ugly Duckling, once you accept it and give it a chance, it will shine through. "Celery root is such an eye opener," says Farmerie, who likes to add it to mashed potatoes and soups, or roasts in a high-heat oven. "It's one of my favorites, and it's nice to celebrate these rustic vegetables this time of year." Also called celeriac, this root comes from a type of celery that's actually cultivated for the bulb. It tastes a lot like its namesake, but the texture is that of a turnip or potato. The best part is, it lasts for months as long as you keep it in a cool, dry place.
Kumquat: "Kumquats are high on my list, and they look so festive and funky," says the chef. "Right before Thanksgiving they start popping up, and by Christmas they are hitting the market very hard." These little citrus are about the size of large table grape and very tart. Don't bother peeling them: the sweetish skin is one of the best parts; just make sure to avoid the bitter seeds. Eat them raw, sliced into a citrus salad or cook them down to make a jam like Farmerie does. In this preparation, the chef cuts the tiny orange fruits in half, then gives them a little squeeze to get the seeds out, and simmers them in simple syrup with ginger, cinnamon and star anise. Cook them until they are translucent and keep as a marmalade, or, add some softer fruits like cranberries for a nice red spread that's perfect for the holidays.
Here are some ideas pulled straight from the Food Republic Recipes Section: