Boulder Farmers' Market, week thirteen: Fruit frenzy and lamb with eggplant (recipe included!)
Fifteen minutes before the Boulder Farmers' Market opens Saturday, a line of some twenty or thirty people has formed in front of the Morton's Orchard stand. Word is out that the first peaches are at the market. These early peaches won't be as sweet and juicy as later ones, and the flesh will still cling to the stone -- so I'm thinking no jams, pies or ice cream yet, just some amazing out-of-hand eating.
Colorado apricots that survived the tough spring.
Miracle of miracle, there are even a few apricots on the stand, and the family is selling boxes of apricot seconds -- bruised, bird-pecked and pocked, some a bit mushy and some rock hard, but salvaged from a savagely frosty spring and perfectly fine for jam.
- Best Farmers' Market 2012: Boulder Farmers' Market
- Boulder Farmers' Market, week twelve -- cherries and beans
- Strawberries are at their peak -- time to make jam!
There are peaches at the Durazno stand as well. A lot of people swear Morton's peaches are the very best -- hence the long line. I once spent a late summer Saturday morning cruising from stand to stand -- Durazno, Morton's, Ela, First Fruits -- buying a couple of peaches at each for a taste test. The results were inconclusive because all the peaches were luscious, but it was one of happiest experiments I've ever conducted.
First peach of the season.
By around 8:45, the peaches at Morton's are sold out, and disappointed people are being turned away.
I pick up a hard-neck, not-yet-dried stalk of garlic at Red Wagon Organic Farms and also a Napa cabbage. Mo McKenna, who works here as well as at Plowshares Pork, explains that you have to harvest the cabbage at exactly the right time, and describes how to assess this: Split a head and check to see if the small inner leaves are still curled tenderly inwards. As she recalls the perfection of this moment, her eyes actually mist -- it's great to buy food from people as passionately obsessive as this. (You can see a photograph of what McKenna describes, along with a couple of her recipes, at redwagonorganicfarm.com.
I saw the first eggplants at Ollin Farms Wednesday -- Ollin comes to Boulder Wednesdays and sells in Longmont Saturdays -- and started trying to decide how to use them. One of the best things about going to the farmers' market is figuring out new dishes to make with what's currently available and thinking about different flavor combinations. In general, you can't go wrong sticking with the tried and true: It doesn't get any better than tomatoes with basil or oregano, for example, or zucchini with dill, new potatoes with mint and butter, fish and chervil, garlic with pretty much everything. But I like trying unfamiliar combinations, too -- or at least combinations unfamiliar to me.
I had lamb chops from the Lamb Lady -- aka Mary Miller of Triple M Bar Ranch -- in the freezer. Everyone knows lamb and mint love each other, and I've made some nice lamb dishes in the past with apricots or preserved lemons. But last month I read an article in the Guardian by Angela Hartnett that said lamb and eggplant are delicious together. I checked that idea out in Niki Segnit's brilliant book, The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook (which should be in the hands of everyone who loves food) and she concurred. She also suggested cooking lamb with rhubarb and since this year's rhubarb crop shows no signs of slowing down, I'm going to try that next.
Keep reading for the lamb recipe.