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. 

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!

Watermelon, Feta & Arugula Salad by Kelly Allison

It's summer! And I love watermelon more than words. So sweet, so juicy, so versatile.

Have you ever thought of watermelon as a savory ingredient? It's high time you gave it a try if you've not done so yet. Here's an easy (and delicious) introduction.


watermelon arugula feta salad with mint
1 small seedless watermelon
1 bunch garden mint
1 shallot
juice from 1 - 2 lemons
1T honey
1 tsp salt
10 oz arugula
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
6 oz feta
generous handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
salt & pepper to taste


Slice the watermelon into large 1.1/2" rounds. Remove rind, and cut the flesh into 1.1/2" cubes. Mince shallot and mint and mix with watermelon cubes. Mix lemon juice, salt and honey until combined. Pour over watermelon and gently toss to coat.

Just before serving, toss the washed arugula leaves with olive oil. Add crumbled feta to the watermelon and serve atop arugula. Sprinkle salad with pepitas and top with a sprig of mint.

If you can find it, add a bit of minced anise hyssop for a subtly sweet licorice/mint flavor.