Friday, September 13, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ Michigan

Food. What would we do without it? Obviously, I don't intend on making that experiment any time soon and that's a good thing, especially when I've landed in a place where, with a little detective work, food heaven is only a few GPS instructions away. Eastern Market is far more than a market, it is tradition, incorporating hard work with true results. I'm so glad we found it.

Quite a number of my friends are pretty spiritual beings (and then there's the rest of us). But that's why I want to show what the entrance to Nirvana looks like. You can't see the solid walls of graffiti on the buildings of the previous three blocks, or the sudden transition from fairly normal surroundings to 'oh crap, I think I've made a very bad turn'. Which just goes to show, don't judge heaven by its entrance or you'll definitely miss out.
This was a Saturday afternoon, much closer to closing time than opening, and it was still packed with people. From the parking area filled with all kinds of plants, even with winter edging closer - I know this because there are already homes sporting pumpkins and ghosties - to the rows and rows of every sort of late season vegetable and fruit, there was far more than we'd ever cover before the doors were shut. That's figuratively speaking, I didn't see any doors.

Chosen from a list of farmer's markets going on that day, I inadvertently hit the grandmother of all of them. Eastern Market reminded me of the market in New Orleans, 40 years ago, without the fish. But maybe/probably there is fish, I still have exploring to do.

There are lots of farmers there, showing off their wares in an abundance that is close to overwhelming. The prices are crazy low; if you go there, have a lot of singles because a whole lot of things are a dollar. And at the end of the day, even things that aren't a dollar are a dollar. How can one resist?
The answer to the above question? You don't. Well, of course there were plenty of things we left behind, but that was because we planned badly and didn't bring a wagon or cart with us and the circulation in our arms was being cut off by our shopping bags.
This is a public service announcement. For those that don't eat baby animals, you'd best stop here, because I do. Go get your shoes repaired and come back later.

Ok, eaters of things young and old, we're back.

We were on our way to the car when this screaming wall got our attention. Ftoni's isn't for the faint of heart, but if carnivore is part of your name? You've just hit the lottery jackpot once you're through the plastic strip doors. There is meat of every kind in every space, steel racks are laden with not prettily packaged individual cuts, but slabs, countertops have bags of ground beef - 10 or 20 pounds of it for a dollar a pound. It's cold in there, the whole store is basically a meat locker, and slightly intimidating at first; this is a butchery, and knowing what you want is the only way you're going to get it. 
 I want to go back to this place and take more inside photos, especially of the men running the place. The guy who I talked to first, was, before I talked to him, stretching his back by having a hand on each counter beside him with his feet pulled up as he swung back and forth, a look of pain and relief on his face. I didn't interrupt - been there, done that. A smile replaced a long day weary grimace and he couldn't have been more helpful getting us a leg of lamb. Though first he thought we wanted the whole lamb (134.00 if you are interested). Lorraine said she was thinking of how to fold it into the car while I corrected our intention to just take home a leg. Ftoni Meat is only one of close to 30 butchers around Eastern Market; I'd go back again any time.
All natural, free range, fresh and local! I wouldn't have minded if it was frozen but it wasn't and it wasn't from New Zealand either. That just made it better.
I'm of a very simple belief when it comes to roasting lamb. Slivers of garlic, lots of them, inserted in knife tip slits all over, a fair amount of rosemary (bruising some of the rosemary and rubbing the meat is a good thing), and, despite the fat already present, a drizzle of olive oil. An over preheated to 400 degrees, turned down to 325, at 25 minutes per pound (for rare, and I like rare), which made this a couple of hours, and wa la!

Done! Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa of cooking fame (versus the Barefoot Contessa of Culebra fame) suggests something I might try - grinding the rosemary and garlic and making a rub of it. I still have half of this beast to experiment with...
Corn, beans and tomatoes that were picked the day before, lamb, wine and good company. We forgot to get baby potatoes but truly, for the here and now of it, why gild the lily?
The next day it was time to do something with the oyster mushrooms. We'd been given explicit instructions by the guys who grew these, so I followed them as best I could with what we had and oh my!!
With scissors, snip off the 'petals' from the main stalk. The remaining stalk is tough and can be thrown away (into your compost!), the petals are the good stuff! Mince up a clove or two of garlic, depending on how many mushrooms you have - I love garlic but I didn't want to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mushroom.

Heat some olive oil (how much is enough? I started with a few tablespoons worth) over a medium low heat, adding some parsley and a bit of thyme. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and about a tablespoon of butter (he was very insistent that it was first olive oil, then butter - different heat tolerances, maybe, just do what he says, it works!). When the garlic is soft and browned, a few more minutes worth of cooking, it's done.

I also wanted to use one of the leeks. Sliced and braised in some broth from a bit of leftover lamb, I should have then sauteed it with the mushrooms but I didn't. It was good way to cook a leek, but it easily could have been elevated up a few notches to excellent. A bed of mushrooms, some leftover lamb cut into bite sized pieces, topped with sliced leeks, some oh so good heirloom tomatoes and lunch was ready!

 Next time, I've got to try some ribs from this guy! 
 photo credit: Lorraine Nelson

Have a free range Friday! Do something fun with food.


  1. Yeah, gotta go for the ribs!

    rehenkes 61

  2. What a pleasant post to read! I'm glad you enjoyed your time and adventure at Ftoni Meat, Eastern Market.

    Also Bert's BBQ does get their meat from Ftoni Meat, and it is indeed a must try. XO