Fall 2015

Kale, farrO, charred onions and red pear salad by Clare Johnson

Everyone loves a delicious, hearty salad. The combination of farro, kale, a sweet red pepper and simple vinaigrette makes this an easy salad for any style of dinner.  

For roughly six servings, you'll need the following ingredients: one bunch of kale, one cup of dry farro, red pear, yellow onion, pepitas plus olive oil, lemon, garlic and honey for the vinaigrette. 

The key to an enjoyable salad is to massage the kale! Kale is a fibrous leafy green which makes it much harder to chew. Massaging the kale transforms the tough, somewhat bitter leaves into a sweet and delicate bowl of greens. Wash and de-stem the kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces.  In a medium bowl, combine the kale, a squeeze of lemon, sea salt and a dash of olive oil (for taste) and gentle rub the leaves. As you rub the leaves, you notice them becoming softer and turning a brighter green. Massage the kale for 3-5 minutes and then place it on the side. 

Next, set the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is warming up, cook the farro based on the packet instructions. Once the oven is warm, slice the onions the spread them on out in a pan with parchment paper. Toss them in olive oil and roast them until golden brown (about 20 minutes). 

Once all the ingredients are prepared, mix them with the chopped pear and pepitas in a large mixing bowl. Top the salad with our go-to vinaigrette: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon, 1-3 garlic cloves, honey, salt and pepper to taste. 

When you're ready to serve, slice fresh parmesan, mix and enjoy! 

Hoppy Decorations: DIY Hop Garland by Clare Johnson

We know lots of folks get engaged over the holidays and are busy Pinning away and planning their dream tablescapes, event decor and more (congrats!). We can't help but think what we have to offer today may just be what you're looking for.

 At our fall salon, hosted in the Guest Room at Antique Taco,  Kelly Connolly of Nimble Well added a some serious flare to our cocktail bar using homegrown hops. It has us dreaming of unusual garlands, or similarly inspired garlands of, perhaps, dried grasses and flowers in winter or lush & live ones in summer, spring and fall. Ours? Great for gardeners, greenery lovers and beer lovers alike. It smelled so good, too!

where did the hops come from? 

Kelly acquired the hop vines from a local source: her neighbors. As home brewers, they grow several varieties of hops in their yard. Hops grow rather vigorously (up to one foot per day) and it's important to trim them back throughout the growing season to keep them healthy. So, why not use them for some hop-crafting?

I’m in love with the shape of the flowers; one variety is long and draping like grapes and another compact and densely clustered.

To create the frame, Kelly used copper pipes and joints - items you can find at practically any hardware store. For a quick tutorial on DIY frame backdrops, check out the Parties for Pennies site. 

Once the frame was constructed, she clipped different lengths of vines and flower clusters and attached them to the frame using floral wire. Floral wire is great for any plant-based crafts. Its malleable quality makes it very easy to use and the green color of the wire is easily camouflaged by the foliage. 

I started with the longer pieces and then added the flower clusters. I know hops aren’t the most common vine growing in backyards, but the same method would work with grapes and ivies.

Small touches like these, great for photography and photo booth backdrops, are guaranteed to take your event to the next level and leave guests gobsmacked. 

For more DIYs, see the Balloon + Fringe tutorial from our 2013 winter salon and Balloon Garland and Spiral Paper from our 2015 summer salon at Greenhouse Loft. 

Kelly Connolly of Nimble Well - event stylist extraordinaire - has been an integral part of our Forth team for two years and an integral part of countless beautiful events. Her collection of tabletop rentals adds the perfect touch of color and elegance to our salons, but her talent doesn't stop there! Go see all she gets up to on her gorgeous Instagram feed

Savory fall sides: Esquites and charred green beans with homemade harissa by Clare Johnson

Smoky esquites and charred green beans added a bright pop of color and some seriously bold flavor to our fall salon feast at Antique Taco. Both recipes were created as a nod to our incredible host, made all the more beautiful by the Guest Room's hand-painted tableware. 

The first recipe is Esquites, a traditional Mexican corn salad. The ingredients are simple: fresh corn, cilantro, mayonnaise or sour cream, red pepper and a touch of crumbled cotija cheese. 

The first step is to cook the corn. Remove the kernels from the cob (use about 6 ears for 4-6 servings) and give them a quick rinse. Place a dry pan on your stove and turn it to high heat. The key is to char the kernels for a nice, smoky flavor. Let the kernels cook for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

After the kernels have charred, chop the red pepper into small pieces and mix it with the corn. Add the mayonnaise/sour cream, cilantro and cheese.  Use however much of each ingredient to your liking. We recommend 2-3 tbsp of both cream and cheese and a handful of cilantro leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve it family style of in small dishes.

The second dish is our green beans with harissa sauce. This dish combines all the elements of the "burnout" theme with charred green beans, burnt harissa and toasted almonds. 

For this recipe, you'll need: one bunch of fresh green beans, harissa sauce (homemade or store bought), and toasted almonds for garnish. 

First, clean and trim the ends of your green beans. Once cleaned, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot sauté pan.  Place the green beans in the sauté pan and heat for a few minutes. They cook quickly so don't wander far! The objective is to keep the beans a nice blanched green with a bit of char. 

After the beans are cooked, it's time to create the harissa. If you're feeling up to making your own, we highly recommend Smitten Kitchen's homemade harissa. Lightly dress your green beans with harissa and top them with the toasted almonds. To toast almonds, simply roast them for 5-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

Serve these sides with our golden chicken and lemon salsa verde for one beautifully bright plate. 

Golden chicken thighs with charred lemon salsa verde by Clare Johnson

Today we're bringing you our second savory dish from our fall salon. To continue with our "Burnouts and Boundaries" theme, Forth Founder Kelly Allison prepared some seriously delicious grilled chicken topped with a charred lemon salsa verde.  If you're looking for ways to dress up a chicken, look no further. 

We have a few sites we traditionally turn to when searching for salon recipes and for this dish, we used the ever-reliable Food & Wine website. Classic flavor combinations like butter, garlic and herbs mixed with a unique lemon salsa verde make for a delicious main dish. 

We recommend a few tricks when executing the golden chicken thighs. Be sure to take time to prep the chicken to guarantee flavor perfection.  Stuff the area in between the skin and meat with sage, garlic and butter and if possible, prep the chicken 2-12 hours before you intend to cook it to allow the flavors to settle in. 

If you're planning to serve the chicken with the charred salsa verde, create the verde the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Prepping the chicken and the salsa the night before will make the execution of the dish much less time consuming when dinner comes around. 

If you missed our first savory post, grilled romaine and charred leek salad, be sure to check it out.

Stay tuned for our post on recommended side-dish pairings: esquites corn salad and green beans with homemade harissa. 

Grilled romaine and charred leek salad by Clare Johnson

Our Fall Salon, hosted in The Guest Room at Antique Taco, was themed around "Burnouts & Boundaries" which inspired charred, grilled and toasted dishes. 

Forth Chicago-Fall Salon 2015-Antique Taco

This grilled romaine salad - made by Forth Founder, Kelly Allison - is fast, beautiful and delicious and it can be created based on the flavor preferences of you and your guests. Top the salad with a buttermilk dressing (we love Martha Stewart's!) and you'll have yourself a delightful dinner party favorite. 

Forth Chicago-Fall Salon 2015-Antique Taco

Buttermilk dressing (from Martha Stewart):

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley


  • 1 head of romaine
  • 1 leek stalk
  • 1 radish bunch (for pickling)
  • 2 shallots (for pickling)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive oil and unsalted butter

Slice the romaine into quarters and toss lightly with olive oil. Quickly sear the romaine on a hot grill (or hot grill pan) to get the smoky flavor and char.

Next, slice the leeks into strips. Heat butter, olive oil and garlic in a hot pan and give the leeks a quick fry. Place the leeks on a paper towel and allow them to cool for a minute before placing them on the grilled romaine.

Now for the toppings! Dress the salad with your favorite pickled vegetables - store bought or homemade. We're a fan of pickled radishes and shallots for our burnout salad. If you want to pickle your own vegetables, mix red wine vinegar, salt and sugar together in an airtight container. Thinly slice the shallots and radishes and soak them in the pickling juice for one hour to one day in advance. 

Lastly, whisk together the dressing ingredients - first the olive oil and lemon juice, then the buttermilk and parsley - and lightly dress the salad. We recommend doing this right before serving to keep it fresh. Give the whole salad a quick sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper and you're ready to serve.

Stay tuned for more savory dishes from our fall salon - coming soon!

Earl Grey Infused Chocolate Mousse by Julie Schumacher

I've been wanting to bake with tea for ages. Once I started using more herbs in my baking it was only a matter of time before I started eyeing the chamomile.

But it was good old stodgy Earl Grey that won with this silly quick blender chocolate mousse. I had dabbled with individual souffles featuring a similar flavor combination but then I found this recipe from Food52 and realized sometimes easier is way better.

When I say this takes ten minutes, I'm not kidding one little bit. In the time it takes to steep the tea and orange rind, you can chop the chocolate and separate the egg whites. We have a Vitamix which made it even easier. How easy? I whipped up one batch while the kid was looking for her shoes.

Super creamy, with a hint of the tea and a nod to the orange but mostly just majorly chocolate. The recipe is naturally gluten free, doubles in a snap for simple scaling and stores easily in mini masons or whatever you have on hand. In the several times I've now made it I've yet to screw it up, and that's saying something.