Farmers markets are surely a Chicago staple in the summer time. Although the weather has recently been less than ideal, this hasn’t stopped many of Chicago’s tourists, locals, and working professionals from taking a break to stop by at the many farmers markets in the Chicagoland area. Selling varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers, these farmers markets are something to enjoy on both weekdays and weekends. Some vendors also sell freshly baked goods, assortments of cheeses, and there are even some local non-food vendors, too.

Offering a great change of pace, the farmers market is unique to any passerby. My favorite farmers market to go to is right across the street from the restaurant in the Federal Plaza, which is the same location where we host Oktoberfest. Every Tuesday I pick up some fresh summer fruits and vegetables, and our chefs do the same! For example, just recently our Catering Sous Chef Liz Tokarczyk picked up a head of broccoli romanesco, prepared a delicious cooked sample, and taught the team about this unique vegetable. Often times, the food we find at farmers markets are the inspiration behind our fresh dishes in the restaurant as well as the items on our catering menus. Not only do farmers markets allow us to learn more about new foods and food trends, but we are also able to support the region’s farms and food producers through buying and cooking locally.

The next time you are eager to buy some fresh produce, stop by at one of the following farmers markets close to the Berghoff. And then visit the restaurant for a freshly cooked meal after!

Farmers Markets near the Berghoff:

Tuesdays:

Federal Plaza Farmers Market
Adams St. & Dearborn Pkwy.
May 19–October 27, 7am–3pm
This market accepts the LINK card.

Thursdays:

Willis Tower Farmers Market
233 S. Wacker Dr.
June 25–October 29, 7am–3pm
This market accepts the LINK card.

NEW – South Loop Farmers Market
1936 S. Michigan Ave.
June 25–October 15, 4–8pm

After purchasing your fresh produce, you will want this recipe for grilled vegetables with red pepper aïoli. They are a summer must-have for any barbecue party, especially while farmers markets are in full swing. Use the following recipe as a guideline, substituting whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Grilled Vegetables with Red Pepper Aïoli
Serves 8

2 eggplants, sliced into ½ inch thick lengthwise
2 yellow squash, sliced into ½ inch thick lengthwise
2 zucchini, sliced into ½ inch thick lengthwise
2 jumbo peeled carrots, sliced ½ inch thick lengthwise
2 bell peppers (your choice of colors), halved and seeded
3 medium-sized red onions, quartered and skewered
3 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned
12 spears thick asparagus
Salt and ground black pepper
Olive oil
Red Pepper Aïoli as needed

To make the vegetables:

Preheat the grill.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with olive oil until fully coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables directly on the hot grill to get good markings. Grill just to the desired degree of doneness. (Remember that the hot vegetables will continue to cook after they are removed from the grill.) Transfer in a single layer to a baking sheet, and allow to cool to room temperature before using. (After cooling, these vegetables may be refrigerated until ready to use.)

When serving, the grilled vegetables may be cut into strips or cubes, and the asparagus left whole or cut into thirds. Serve as a side dish at your barbecue, or tuck into pita pockets to make a delicious sandwich. Garnish with Red Pepper Aïoli.

To make the red pepper aïoli:
2 cloves garlic
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper

Chop the garlic to a pastelike consistency, and place in a small mixing bowl. (Cut the garlic cloves in half lengthwise; if you see a greenish sprout, remove and discard it; otherwise it will give your aïoli a bitter flavor.) Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, and mustard. Add ½ cup of prepared pureed roasted peppers. In a slow and steady stream, whisk in the oil to form an emulsion, whisking constantly. The consistency should be like mayonnaise. If the aïoli becomes too thick, add a few drops of warm water. Season with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.