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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Head East

Going to the farmers’ market is one of my favorite things. In Detroit, we’re lucky to have Eastern Market. In the midst of a major renovation, it’s about to become a world-class outdoor urban market and a great source for all things fresh and local.

On a typical spring weekend, you can find local asparagus, lettuces, onions, garlic, herbs, cheeses, honey, meats, beans, pastas, spices, jams, apple cider, breads and pastries. Michigan’s offerings only improve as summer progresses.

This year, the market will host a series of 26 live cooking demonstrations on Saturdays, May-Oct. The Taste of Eastern Market series kicked off May 2 with Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, owner of Roast, the Free Press Restaurant of the Year. The idea is to show shoppers how to creatively use the seasonal produce available at the market.

In that spirit, Symon grilled lamb t-bones, with Greek yogurt and a salad of fava bean, fresh peas, ramps (a cross between garlic and leeks), radishes, toasted almonds and feta with mint-chili vinaigrette.

His advice: buy the best ingredients you can afford and cook for your palate. Figure out what tastes and flavors you like and go with it... do you like salty, sweet, acid, or fatty flavors? Once you know that, you can focus your menus accordingly.

Consider contrasts in flavor and temperature and try to balance them with each meal -- such as the acid, tangy yogurt with the salty feta and fatty lamb, or plating the cool vegetable salad atop the grilled lamb.

Finally, he offered some tips for grilling or pan-frying meat or poultry:

-Unwrap, season with salt and pepper, rewrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before cooking

-Allow meat to come to room temperature (1-2 hours) before cooking

-If you want tender, juicy meat, let it be once it’s on the grill/skillet, don’t be poking, pressing or prodding on it

-If it sticks to the grill/skillet, don’t flip it, it’s not ready

-When it’s done, remove from the heat and let it rest for at least a few minutes before slicing or eating

By supporting local farmers, you are assured that your food is fresh, often organic, and in many cases, less expensive than at the grocery store. You know it hasn’t been flown or trucked 1,000 miles. Plus, it supports the local economy and we can all feel good about that in tough times. For the most part, the farmers truly care about food and are unwilling to compromise their standards to make a few bucks. And even if none of this interests you, strolling through the market offers great people watching.

So, this summer, I encourage you to skip the big box grocery. If you go, wear comfy shoes, bring a big bag or wagon, and lots of cash, preferably small bills.

Stay tuned for Part II with Chef Symon.

1 comment:

  1. I must come visit the Eastern Market. We should make a date! Our market in Windsor is quite small...but I found out that Farmer Hric is going to have local asparagus next weekend. woo-friggin-hoo!!!