2014 Spring

Phyllo Flat Bread x2: Asparagus & Spring Onion, Grilled Grapes & Fennel by Kelly Allison

Today's recipes build on the theme of unusual pairings, and continues in the tradition of creating a variety of seasonal toppings for my go-to flat bread. As I've noted before, the base for this recipe is a no-fail crowd pleaser. And it's a blank canvas, so you can create any number of variations to suit your palate, the season, or the theme of your event. Substitute any combination of cheeses, and top with whatever inspires you. I've not done it (yet), but I'm sure you could even create a sweet version for breakfast or dessert. grilled asparagus and spring onion flatbread


1 package thick (country style) phyllo dough
1/2 c olive oil
1 bunch tender spring asparagus, washed and ends trimmed
1 bunch spring onions / bulb onions, washed, ends and tops trimmed
1 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh marjoram
6 oz emmentaler cheese
10 oz goat cheese
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
Toss asparagus & spring onions with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Prepare your grill by greasing the grate & preheating to medium high. Carefully lay the asparagus & onions across the grates, and grill until bright green and char marks appear (2 minutes per side).
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Preheat oven to 350º. In a small bowl, mix together shredded emmentaler, 8 oz goat cheese, eggs, minced garlic, chopped parsley, and salt & pepper. Line a large baking tray with parchment, and unroll the phyllo dough onto a flat surface. Carefully place one sheet of phyllo on the parchment and brush with olive oil, repeat with a second layer. Top phyllo with 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat this process, alternating phyllo & cheese mixture.
Keep a damp towel over the unused phyllo stack to prevent tearing. Brush the top layer of phyllo with olive oil & top with grilled asparagus & onions. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until phyllo is golden brown. Gently puncture any air bubbles that cause the phyllo to rise, to let the steam escape. Just before serving, sprinkle the top with goat cheese crumbles & minced marjoram.
Season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove the parchment & flat bread to a cutting board & cut diagonally into
diamond pieces. Can be served warm, or at room temperature.


grape fennel flat bread


1 package thick (country style) phyllo dough
1/2c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
1 bunch red seedless grapes, washed
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin, tops discarded
1 bunch fresh thyme
large handful of chopped walnuts
a hearty chunk of Parmesan, shredded
small log goat cheese
8 oz ricotta
1 egg
salt & pepper to taste
Wash grapes thoroughly and dry carefully to keep grapes on the vine. Mix together balsamic vinegar & olive oil, and marinate the grapes for up to 3 hours.
Prepare your grill by greasing the grate & preheating to medium high. Lay the grape vine atop hot grates, and grill until soft and char marks appear (2 - 4 minutes per side).
Sauté fennel with thyme and olive oil on medium heat until fragrant & tender, about 5 - 8 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º. In a small bowl, mix together shredded parmesan, ricotta, egg, salt & pepper.
Line a large baking tray with parchment, and unroll the phyllo dough onto a flat surface. Carefully place one sheet of phyllo on the parchment and brush with olive oil, repeat with a second layer. Top phyllo with 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat this process, alternating phyllo & cheese mixture.
Keep a damp towel over the unused phyllo stack to prevent tearing. Brush the top layer of phyllo with olive oil & top with fennel & grapes. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until phyllo is golden brown. Just before serving, sprinkle the top with walnuts and goat cheese crumbles.
Season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove the parchment & flat bread to a cutting board & cut diagonally into diamond pieces. Can be served warm, or at room temperature.

Persian Inspiration: Beetroot + Rhubarb, Baked Falafel + Chamomile Hummus by Kelly Allison

Whenever possible, our menu items are selected based on recipes that best showcase the current season's bounty.  For the unusual pairings spring salon I wanted to incorporate early harvest rhubarb, and Julie had already tackled a delicious sweet rhubarb tart for last summer's event. I also had spring beets on the brain, and was inspired by the idea of combining the earthiness of the beetroot and the bright tang of the rhubarb. Luckily, my google search told me that I wasn't alone in thinking these two could pair together successfully. rhubarb, chamomile, and pomegranate molasses

Borrowing some ingredients from this post I found on The Guardian, and incorporating a few of my own flavor preferences, I mixed up this yummy salad that is vibrant both in looks and flavors.


2 bunches baby spring beets, any variety 3 - 4 firm rhubarb stalks 1 t granulated sugar 1 small bunch curly parsley 1 small red onion 1/2 pint kumquats 4 oz gorgonzola -- for the dressing -- 1 T sherry vinegar 1 T fresh lemon juice 1.1/2 T pomegranate molasses* 1 T pure maple syrup 3 T extra virgin olive oil zest from one lemon salt + pepper to taste

Preaheat oven to 350˚. Remove beet greens, if any, and use to make either this or this. Wrap beets tightly in foil and bake in a rimmed pan for 40 - 50 minutes, or until fork tender. Peel beets once cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Wash rhubarb and slice very thinly on a diagonal. Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat. Wash kumquats and slice into thin rounds, removing seeds as necessary. Slice onions into thin ribbons and soak in ice water for 10 - 15 minutes to remove bitterness. Mix beets, rhubarb, kumquats and onions together in a large bowl.

Combine sherry vinegar, lemon juice, molasses, syrup, and zest in a small bowl. Mix to incorporate. Drizzle olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until desired emulsion is reached. (Alternately, put all ingredients into a jar with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to create emulsion.) Season with salt & pepper.

Drizzle dressing over beet mixture and toss to coat. Can be served immediately or refrigerated for 1 - 2 days. Just before serving, mix in coarse-chopped parsley & crumbled gorgonzola.

* A note on pomegranate molasses: Don't skip it! Don't substitute! This simple condiment is delicious, complex, and might just become your new favorite ingredient. Look to find it in grocery stores who stock Persian/Mediterranean items.

beet rhubarb salad with kumquats


Continuing on the Persian-esque flavor profile, we had also planned to recreate Mark Bittman's baked falafel, one of Julie's tried & true. But as the theme was unusual pairings, we thought the traditional accompaniment of tahini or hummus would be too mundane an offering. Again, my brain set to work and I wondered how the addition of chamomile, a Mediteranean staple, might play. And again, I used Google to double check that I wasn't the only person who'd tried to mix tea into their hummus. I wasn't.

steeping chamomile tea


2 cans chickpeas, drained & liquid preserved 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 c tahini (sesame paste) 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil juice from 2 - 3 lemons 2 T dried chamomile 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste smoked paprika for garnish

Steep chamomile in 1c boiling water for 5 minutes. Cover to ensure release of essential oils. Strain chamomile tea and set aside to cool.

In a food processor mix tahini & garlic until well combined. While the blade is running, slowly add chickpeas and process until smooth. Add chamomile water (& reserved chickpea liquid if needed) to keep the mixture from getting too thick. Mix in lemon juice & olive oil in a slow steady stream, ensuring even incorporation and emulsification. Season with salt, mix well, and adjust salt/lemon juice as desired. Spread onto a flat dish and top with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baked falafel (recipe here).

chamomile hummus with baked falafel

Note: If you must use cumin, as is typical with traditional hummus, use a light hand. The bold flavor will overpower the delicate notes of the chamomile, making its presence virtually unnoticeable.




Spring Sweets: Rosemary Caraway Shortbread, Lemon Thyme Bars, Bay Leaf Pound Cake by Julie Schumacher

Today we've got the second set of sweetly unusual pairings, many of which bring some herbal goodness into unexpected places. 20140325_forth-72

Lemon Thyme Bars

These lemon bars from D.M.R Fine Foods use seven eggs for the custard-y layer. SEVEN eggs. That is awesome. And it required another glaze, which I told you threw me for a loop with those donuts.  And there wasn't a moment making these, until I plated them, that I didn't think I was royally screwing something up. But whatever I did, these were damn good. The interplay of the thyme in the shortbread crust and the one-two citrus punch of the lemon layer and the glaze were worth it, and despite my anxiety, they weren't hard to make. Lots of whisking which is a favorite baking activity. Everything feels official when you whisk. Getting them out of the pan meant sacrificing the edges for clean cuts, which was worth it as the glaze dripped down over the edges in a perfectly unplanned pretty. They pop a lemon punch so a smaller cut makes sense here (and makes losing the perimeter less of a thing).


Rosemary Caraway Shortbread


I like to have at least one recipe I've baked successfully on the menu so I'm not totally adrift and in the wild the day before (or the morning of) an event. A few months back we got our Turntable Kitchen pairing and it included a healthy heaping of caraway seeds for a pizza sauce that is so.good. (My very first adventure with caraway was in 2010 on the island of Viðey in Iceland). Very shortly after the pizza was devoured, Bon Apetit posted a rosemary and toasted caraway seed shortbread. I've made it a few times. Shortbread is easy and feels fancy, a winning combination in my book. I've said I love baking with rosemary before and the coarse sugar on top is a added twist of yum. Garnishing it with a bit of extra rosemary is a nice touch, too.

One tip: Chopping toasted caraway seeds is an exercise in madness. They fly out from under the knife as if escaping certain doom, which they kind of are. I found covering the pile with a paper towel and cutting through it helped prevent their escape without making them rosemary, caraway, and paper towel shortbread.


Bay Leaf Pound Cake


When our dear Natalie sent in her intern application an eye-catcher detail for me was a shared love of 101 Cookbooks, the masterful site by Heidi Swanson. Natalie mentioned frequenting it, like I do, for savories and sweets alike. So it wasn't a surprise that she selected a bay leaf pound cake (bay leaf!) with an orange glaze to bake.


Next week, Kelly & Natalie will be sharing the savory pairings they dreamed up.


Unusual Pairings: Gluten Free Spring Sweets by Julie Schumacher

Our Spring salon's overarching theme of women working together made me want to think about the way foods and flavors work in unusual ways. There are lots of things that always go delightfully together but it's the magic of the unexpected that we wanted to explore. And, we wanted to do it so that all our guests could enjoy. Here are three Gluten Free treats well worth making even if you live a gluten full life.


Saffron Donuts with Rosewater Glaze I can't tell you exactly how I found Spa Bettie...a feverish night on food pairing sites perhaps. But oh boy. This is what we're talking about when we're talking about unusual. The color and flavor?! The rosewater balances the earthiness of the saffron. And, it was an awesome experiment in glaze making. My first round of glaze was too watery and ran off/was absorbed quickly by the donuts so a second and third layer were added.


Get the recipe from Spa Bettie (gluten free, dairy free, vegan, makes 6 donuts)


Candied Orange Peels with White Chocolate This came from a blog called Veggies and Gin. Can we not all agree that is the BEST blog name? Rather than dip the orange peels in bittersweet chocolate, I opted for white chocolate. It felt like it had a more Spring-y vibe that way. Recipes like this, which are more about rote execution than mastery of a weird technique, are great when you want to bulk up a menu without losing your mind. Boiling, simple syrups, dipping in chocolate? I can handle that.


Recipe from Veggies and Gin *Check out her recipe. She's got great tips on adapting it using other citrus fruits.


Gluten Free Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies As I was standing in Whole Foods the day before the event, I'll admit I had a competitive moment with Kelly, who I knew could and would whip up many savory dishes that rocked. And I wanted another chocolate dish. So while in the produce section I googled "best gluten free cookie." The first hit was this lovely oat-based chocolate chip cherry cookie from Making Thyme for Health. I realize chocolate and cherry is not wildly unusual but the combination of maple syrup and oats felt more breakfast than dessert. That audible paid off.  These guys were really, really good. They have been a great snack for the tot and keep well.


Recipe from Making Thyme for Health

Tomorrow I'll share the other sweet recipes from the Spring salon. Think thyme, lemon, caraway, and rosemary. And bay leaves in baking...my goodness.

Spring Spotlight: Prosecco Herb Bar by Julie Schumacher

Yesterday Lisa introduced five things she's got in mind when we're planning an event. Today we're spotlighting one of them: our Prosecco herb bar. 20140325_forth-132

There's no question we view Prosecco as an integral part to our events. It's festive and bubbly, a step above white wine but not quite as intense as champagne. It's been at every salon and while not everyone indulges we make sure we have more than enough for anyone who wants to to keep a (beautiful) glass full.

Forth is a thoroughly Chicago event. And it's been a slog of a winter. In fact, it snowed the morning of the salon. Just a tease of a dusting but snow nonetheless, and it made me even happier that we had designed the herb bar. It was a quick conversation during a planning meeting about a way to add something special, and seasonal, to the event. Lisa took that "you know what would be cool?" and showed up with a veritable, and verdant, herb garden.


Add a helpful herb list (I'd never tried marjoram and will admit to nibbling some while chatting at the bar).


To add some color and a dash of fruitiness, guests had the option of plunking a delightfully ripe kumquat or blackberry in too. We were talking unusual pairings, you know?


It was a simple way to take our good friend Prosecco and dress her up for spring. Herby lushness, customized by each guest, meant that we, quite literally, drank in the promises of a green spring around the corner.


And, it was a great conversation starter. No awful, traditional ice breakers necessary when you can wax poetic with a new pal about whether thyme or sage made the cut, or here, the cup.


Our adventure in herbs has made me think about the small things we can do that have a big impact. The gestures of welcome, the chances to foster a connection, the tiny dash of whimsy that can transform a fairly routine act into something with a bit of magic.

Five ways we create an intimate event by Lisa Guillot

Prepping-for-partyThe best thing about prepping for a Forth event is knowing I am going to love the process. Meticulous planning and attention to detail, even the color of the pencils, is all thought out months in advance. Picking the theme, the delicate color palette, and talking about the ingredients, though I have no hand in making the tasty treats, Kelly and Julie blow me away ever single salon, is a labor of love. After hours of Google Docs, baking, printing, special touches, love, it all comes together two hours before our guests arrive. We're creating an intimate event for women of influence (super cool chicks) so here are the big picture things we think about.

Here are 5 of the most important decisions we make when prepping a Forth seasonal salon.

Spring-Forth-location1. Location

We want to create a vibe of comfort, peace, intimacy and openness. The location of our salons is very important to us so we research, resource and aren’t afraid to ask new and old friends if they would host us in their space. We were tickled pink when Melissa O'Neal Salvatore, of Heritage Littles and A Little Photo Studio, offered her space for our Spring 2014 salon. We always need a bar or large tabletop for our food spread and prefer a circle or square table that seats 15 women. We aren’t networking, so it can’t feel too formal, instead the decor and location all come together to create the perfect setting.


2. Decor

Decor is crucial to a great party and setting the tone to our event. We are a seasonal salon so selecting fresh seasonal ingredients, like rosewater essence and rhubarb, and seasonal flowers help set the right look. We constantly go back to our theme, in this case it was unusual pairings: working with friends. A spring color palette in combination with unusual pairings, like soft succulents and bouncy billy balls add to the feel of our event.

Forth-spring-details3. Details

We revel in the details! Sweet and savory foods, drinks, straws, napkins and gifts are all discussed in advance. For spring I initially bought gold and white striped pens, which where nixed for blue, aqua and yellow pencils at the last minute which better suited our theme. Concept people! It's the graphic designer in me, gotta stick to the concept! Every moment is an opportunity to show our guests how much we care about them and their time.

Spring-herb-bar4. Give them something to do

This is the first time most of our guests are meeting. I only knew a handful of our attendees before the spring salon, some of them only from social media- so this is the first opportunity to meet, one of our most coveted intentions of Forth: meet face to face! To cut out any awkwardness we create a space to socialize right away- in this case it was the herb bar. Mixing a drink with your favorite spring herb was an easy conversation starter.

Forth-purpose5. Purpose

Why are we going to all this trouble in the first place? We are building a community! We create time and space for women of influence to gather, share, talk and laugh. We lead each salon with a topic, in this case it was working with friends. Each of our guests are chosen because we believe they will add to the conversation and to our community. Creating a space that is beautiful, carefully thought out and detail oriented shows that we care and believe in what we are doing and hope that our guests will feel the comfort, intimacy and love that we want to bring each season.