Boulder Farmers' Market, week two: From duck eggs to salmon
The Boulder Farmers' Market on Saturday, April 13, is one of those variable Colorado days when you're not sure whether to wear a coat, a jacket or a heavy sweater -- and you find yourself peeling off layers as the morning advances. JJ in his wheelchair and Raelene wearing her trademark cowboy hat hold down both ends of the one-street market, selling the Denver Voice.
This is a prime location for selling, says JJ, and he loves coming here even though he has to take the bus from Denver very early in the morning if he's to hold on to his spot. Locations at the market are highly prized because Boulder people are so friendly and generous, he tells me, and the market is such a celebratory event. When he gets bored, he'll roll over to the edge of the bordering park to watch the kids playing.
Hot coffee and a sugary snack are obligatory on this still-cool morning, and no matter how early you get to the market, there's always a line at the Udi's bakery stand. This morning Udi's is selling a new kind of pastry called a kouign-amman or -- as the vendor dubs it, ignoring the Breton origins -- a Colorado Queen. The thing is truly royal. It looks like a small, tight, squarish cushion and consists of layers of buttery dough folded and re-folded, with a crispy, sugary glaze on the outside. You can get it plain or chocolate, and either way it's delicious. (Also, according to the blogosphere which I consulted later at home, extremely trendy.)
Chef Eric Skokan, owner of the Black Cat and the Bramble and Hare restaurants, makes his first appearance of the year selling baby kale, among other leafy goods. All you have to do at dinnertime is wash the leaves and wilt them briefly -- low to medium heat -- in the water that still sticks to them. Add salt and pepper and a knob of butter. Or saute a sliced clove or two of garlic in olive oil for thirty seconds -- again, low-medium heat -- then add the damp leaves, wilt and season. Skokan also has lacy chervil, often hard to find, that's great with fish or chopped with parsley, tarragon and chives to top an omelette. He looks happy to be back, and he's one of the most generous chefs around, always willing to give detailed cooking advice or tell you how to use that strangely shaped vegetable or odd cut of meat you picked up.
Then there are eggs. When I was little, the farmers I knew took great pride in all the different breeds of chicken they raised. "There's my Lavender Orpington," they'd say proudly, as a bird ambled past. "And that's the Cochin. See the Dorking? She's been around since Roman times." The eggs we bought were equally varied. Then the small farms died out, and we got used to seeing boxes of identical white eggs in the supermarkets. Brown-shelled eggs became fashionable a few years ago, but these were still weeks old, and still from the same crammed, miserable, unhealthy hens. Here at the market, you find cartons of eggs in colors that remind you of Easter: pale khaki, light-blue, brown, speckled and pearly pink. Aaron Rice of Jodar Farm has duck eggs, too -- expensive at $9 a dozen (chicken eggs are $5), but worth it if you're addicted to them.
Duck eggs are large and white, with thick shells that require a bit of effort to crack. They contain a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, and are supposedly more nutritious than chicken eggs -- and better for cancer patients. The whites whip up well, and make for fluffier baked goods. Just break one of these beauties into a pan when you get home and see the muscularity of that gold-orange yolk; then taste the egg, note the tongue-caressing velvetiness, and see if you don't get addicted, too.
Keep reading to find out about the salmon and how to cook it.