Market Fresh—Local chefs offer advice on what to buy and eat from farmers markets this season

July 2017 View more

Stacks of summer produce at the farmers market are some of the most bountiful sights of the season. We asked six local experts to pick a summer fruit or vegetable and share how they’re using it at their restaurants. So you can get in on the seasonal bounty as well, they also shared tips on how to shop smart at the market and prepare each item once you bring it home.

Nicholas Malloy, chef de cuisine at Artisan Table at Marriott Naperville
1801 Naperville Road, 630.505.4900

When sweet corn arrives at the farmers market, it feels like summer is finally in full swing. “When looking for fresh corn, I always examine the husk,” Malloy says. “I like to make sure that the husk is very tight to the cob. The tighter the husk is, the better the seal. This tells me that the water content is high, providing a fresher and sweeter taste.”

At Artisan Table, Malloy changes his specials often, but as of press time, he was using sweet corn kernels in a polenta cake served with seared scallops, confit pork belly and pickled red onion puree. Malloy suggests DIYing this dish at home by stirring cooked corn kernels into polenta and doctoring it up to your taste. “You can be adventurous with the polenta and add different ingredients,” he says. “[It’s] great with fresh herbs or a variety of cheeses.”

Filemon Ochoa, executive chef at Mesón Sabika
1025 Aurora Avenue 630.983.3000

“My favorite way to cook asparagus is to wrap it in a thinly sliced meat—bacon or jamón serrano are my favorites—and then grill it or steam it,” says Ochoa. “It’s the perfect side dish to accompany any summer meal.”

At Mesón Sabika, asparagus spears and chopped asparagus make an appearance in several dishes, including the Ensalada del Rey with seared beef tenderloin slices, yellow tomatoes and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, as well as the Pasta Vegetariana, a fettuccine dish with swiss chard, peapods, manchego, goat cheese and white tomato sauce. Asparagus typically doesn’t store well for long, so plan to eat it fairly quickly after bringing it home.

Abel Cortes, culinary director at Quiubo
120 Water Street, Suite 122, 331.702.2711

Starfruit—or “carambola” in Spanish—is not an especially popular fruit, says Abel Cortes, but it has a tart flavor that can be described as a combination of apple, pear and orange. “A good starfruit usually has a light green color,” he says. “When it’s too dark, like a lime, that means it’s not ready.”

For Sunday brunch at Quiubo, Cortes slices starfruit and soaks it in syrup to make a sweet topping for the Mexican chocolate hotcakes. At home, he suggests slicing it into granola, or dressing it with fresh lime juice and Tajin, a Mexican seasoning made from chili peppers.

Adam Tanner, chef de cuisine at CityGate Grille
2020 Calamos Court, 630.718.1010

“Growing up, we would use cucumbers to make pickles and then enjoy them all summer long with our burgers and hot dogs and brats,” Tanner says. He suggests a pickling liquid of white balsamic vinegar, a little sugar, salt and peppercorns to taste. Play with the proportions and length of storage (one day to two weeks) to achieve the type of pickle you like—for example, try more sugar for a sweeter pickle or more vinegar for a tarter taste.

At CityGate Grille, Tanner pickles cucumber to make giardiniera for an Italian sausage flatbread. When shopping for a cucumber, “look for color, firmness and always check the ends for any discoloration,” he says. If you’re not up for pickling, no worries. “[Plain cucumbers] are always great on fresh salads, and just slice and put in your water for refreshing drinks in the summer,” Tanner says.

Patrick Cassata, corporate executive chef for Standard Market Grill
1508 Aurora Avenue, 630.536.1620

“Berries are truly meant to be eaten fresh off their vines, so topping them on a salad is fantastic,” Cassata says. At Standard Market Grill he uses fresh berries in a baby spinach and grilled chicken salad with toasted spiced pecans and poppyseed dressing made with local honey and ricotta. At home, he likes to top a toasted bagel with ricotta salata and berries. “For the truly adventurous, place them in your smoker for thirty minutes, then puree with honey, cracked black pepper and chipotle in adobo,” Cassata says. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and you have yourself a sweet, spicy steak sauce.

When selecting berries, remember that they don’t ripen after picking like most other fruits. “Blackberries and raspberries should be deeply colored,” he says. “Pass by blackberries and raspberries with hulls attached, a sign of premature picking. Check all fruit for mold and inspect containers for stickiness or stains.”

Terrell Cole, owner of Dark Horse Pastries
28 West Chicago Avenue, 630.570.0347,

At Dark Horse, Cole uses peaches in turnovers or sweet-and-savory croissants with rosemary-flavored goat cheese and ham. At home, he suggests making a summery peach lemonade.

“Personally, I like the taste of grilled peaches. They’re one of those fruits you can get a good sear on,” Cole says. After grilling your peaches, squeeze them into a pitcher of cold water and add lemon juice and sugar to taste. If you’re buying peaches to use as a dessert filling, look for a firmer fruit. “Then you can let them sit a day and sauté them up with brown sugar for a peach cobbler or filling in a turnover,” he says.


Aurora Farmers Market (two locations)
Downtown Market: Aurora Transportation Center, 233 North Broadway, Aurora
Saturdays through October 21, 8:00 a.m. to noon
West Market: West Aurora Plaza, 1901 West Galena Boulevard, Aurora
Wednesdays July 12 to September 27, noon to 5:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, baked goods, gifts, flowers
Plus: Keep your eyes out for live music and cooking demos.

Downtown Downers Grove Market
Downers Grove Main Street Train Station, Burlington Avenue at Mochel Drive, Downers Grove
Saturdays through October 28, 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Shop: Produce, meat, cheese, baked goods, sandwiches, flowers and gifts
Plus: There’s often live music, and proceeds from booth sales benefit the Indian Boundary YMCA.

Farmers Market at St. John’s
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 750 Aurora Avenue, Naperville
Wednesdays through September 20, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, cheese, meat, seafood, baked goods, snacks, pottery
Plus: The Naperville Public Library provides a craft project for kids and proceeds from booth rentals benefit local charities such as Hesed House, Loaves & Fishes and Feed My Starving Children. For three weeks in August, Naperville Community Unit School District 203 brings produce from its school garden.

Foxtrot Organic Farm
Primrose Farm, 5N726 Crane Road, St. Charles
Wednesdays, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; through November
Shop: Eggs, herbs, flowers and produce, including heirloom and open-pollinated varieties

Geneva French Market
Metra Parking Lot, South Street at 4th Street
Saturdays through November 12, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, cheese, baked goods, gifts, flowers, pet items, jewelry, clothing

Lisle French Market
Along Garfield Avenue near PrairieWalk Pond, Lisle
Saturdays through October 28, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, meat, cheese, baked goods, flowers, crafts, gifts, jewelry and pet items

Plainfield Farmers Market
Plainfield Public Library Parking Lot, 15025 South Illinois Street, Plainfield
Sundays through September 17, noon to 4:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, baked goods, flowers, gifts, soaps, organic meats, honey and pet treats

Naperville Farmers Market
Fifth Avenue Station, 200 East 5th Street, Naperville
Saturdays through October 28, 7:00 a.m. to noon
Shop: Produce, meats, seafood, coffee, baked goods, flowers
Plus: The market is pet-free, so leave Fido at home.

Wheaton French Market
Main Street at Liberty Drive, Wheaton
Saturdays through November 11, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Shop: Produce, flowers, baked goods, jewelry, crafts