Last weekend was hot, humid, and otherwise totally gross. The weather, though, didn’t stop people from flocking to the market, and the added bonus was that the Urbana Sweetcorn festival was happening on the other side of Lincoln Square Mall. I stopped by the market late on Saturday morning, and was a little bummed to find large swaths of open space where some of my favorite food trucks are usually parked. Cracked and the Pop Stop were at Sweetcorn, which is where I ultimately found my brunch. The food trucks should be back this weekend, as there aren’t any festivals scheduled around town until mid-September.
This weekend the produce will be more than abundant, and even if you show up to the market close to noon, you’re sure to have plenty of good stuff to choose from. Look for corn, leafy greens, tomatoes, zucchini, and okra.
The forecast indicates a break in temperatures, and there’s no better way to send off summer than to burn some food over a fire. You can pretty much grill anything you find at the market. I strongly recommend picking up some meat from the meat vendors—I’ve had meat from all of them and can vouch for the quality of product. If you’re unsure about what to do with a particular cut of meat, just ask the vendors. If you don’t have or want to grill, see about picking up a nice cut of pork or beef to throw in the crock pot with some fresh veggies; you can have pulled meat instead of grilled meat.
If you’re not into meat, no worries. Squash and eggplant are excellent on the grill, just be sure to keep your slices of squash thick enough to prevent disintegration and the ultimate grill fail: food falling between the grates. I like to slice eggplant into strips or discs, salt and blot away extra liquid, and then brush on a marinade of balsamic vinegar, fresh basil/oregano/parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Since the eggplant soaks it in, you might need to baste the slices while they’re on the grill. You can then take those slices of eggplant, throw them on a bun from Pekara, and add thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh ricotta, mozzarella, or Prairie Fruits Farm fresh chevre for a delicious burger alternative. If you’re really feeling frisky, you can make your own pesto from market basil or parsley. Parsley pesto is awesome, and I think people should eat it more often.
When I passed by the Sleepy Creek Vineyards booth last weekend I was reminded of last summer’s visit, and fondly recalled those delicious wine slushies. I think those are a must at a Labor Day party, and you’re sure to impress your friends if you show up with that deliciousness. Wine slushies are where it’s at. More of a savory person? Grab a bottle of Winey Mary and impress someone (perhaps yourself) with the tomato-jalapeno wine.
Forms of payment: All vendors accept cash, and a few may take checks. There is an ATM in the Lincoln Square Mall. LINK tokens are still available.
Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and in the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the market off of Illinois.
Information: The market provides a lot of ways to get information. You can follow the market on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for market mail. Check out the map of the vendors, or search for produce. If you want more information you can email Market Director Natalie Kenny Marquez, or call her at 217-384-2319. Check out Flickr and Instagram for some great photos from the market each week.
Pets: The market doesn’t allow pets, so leave your furry friends at home.
The market runs from 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday through November 1st. All events are scheduled rain or shine.