That Secret Ingredient

I have a weakness for Jack Black films. School of Rock, Nacho Libre, even--gulp!--Year One. And I mean no insult to Mr. Black, but when I tell people I love Jack Black films, they usually make a surprised/doubtful face, as if I had just admitted to really, really loving Coors Light or something.

In any case, in Kung Fu Panda, Black's character spends a lot of time wondering what the secret ingredient in his father's noodle soup is, only to discover it's "nothing." Imagination. Power of suggestion. Be-Yourselfness. Love, maybe. Now, for recipe-slave cooks like myself, I hate these kinds of revelations. Tell me what the dumb ingredient is, and whether to put in 2 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon, dang it!

If you've been dying to know what makes Chef X's cheesecake taste so much better than yours, no matter how much be-yourselfness you've dumped in your batter, you'll be happy to know I may have the answer--a real answer! Wandering through the first Saturday Bellevue Farmers Market of the season, I stopped to buy eggs from Startup, Washington's, Sky Valley Family Farm, and was amazed to see I had to specify what kind of eggs. Because Sky Valley sells both standard eggs from free-foraging, clover-eating, happy hens and gen-u-ine duck eggs! I couldn't help asking Nancy, "Who buys the duck eggs, and what do they do with them?" It turns out that duck eggs have become the new secret ingredient among chefs when it comes to baked goods. According to Nancy, the ducks are the better foragers, producing richer eggs which are higher in protein. As a result, cheesecakes and other delights baked with duck eggs result in higher loft and richer flavor. Duck eggs are larger and feel different to peel, and Nancy suggests you experiment with substituting for chicken eggs--the ratio isn't 1:1, nor 2:1. More like 5:4. (If, in your experimentation, you feel it necessary to make more than one cheesecake or souffle, let me officially volunteer to be a taster for you.) I'd love to hear from our braver pastry chefs on this one in the comments, and if you actually are a chef, I'd love to hear from you.

Speaking of restaurant chefs, one of our new vendors this year has long been a favorite of them. Please welcome Hama Hama Oysters to the Saturday market. Bellevue Farmers Market is Hama Hama's first and only market, although you may have had their tasty fresh or processed oysters and clams at places like Elliot's Oyster House in Seattle or as far away as Chez Panisse in San Francisco or Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan! While I sampled the teriyaki smoked oyster, the woman next to me was picking up fresh clams that she meant to steam with butter and garlic, and some shucked oysters to eat raw.

And finally, although sunshine has been hit-and-miss so far this season, both the Thursday and Saturday markets are officially ready for summer and serving up local ice cream! Thursdays will feature Molly Moon's mobile ice cream truck, boasting several seasonal flavors (strawberry rhubarb!) and even "a Parker’s Praline Ice Cream Sandwich made with two soft walnut and Theo Chocolate praline-style cookies with vanilla bean ice cream slathered in between." Oh. My. Gosh. Talk about a press release. And Saturday marketgoers can find Burton Brothers ice cream from Des Moines. Burton and wife Dede prepare the ice cream in six-quart batches, whipping up flavors like Cherry Dark Chocolate Chip, which they describe as "extra rich with intense flavor." Later in the season we'll have to take a poll of favorite flavors--once everyone has gotten a chance to sample a few!