The Ultimate Fall Dinner Party Menu

I always say may favorite season is the beginning of each season, but this holds especially true for fall. The crisp air, shorter days, cooler weather, and dark, cozy evenings lend themselves to staying in and inaugurating the season for that noblest of get-togethers: the dinner party.
Finding inspiration in the colors of fruits and vegetables is the subject of my recent cookbook, Vibrant Food. Coming out of summer’s riot of color, where it’s easy to span the rainbow on a plate with a single meal, I love the challenge of looking for and cooking with colorful produce in fall and winter. Using colors as inspiration for a gorgeous meal have the added bonus of making the meal healthier. We know that vegetables are good for us; when creating a dynamic, vibrant spread for the dinner table, we can be inspired by fall’s rich color palette and also know that those same winter squashes and beets and kale and pears and apples are providing a healthy, nourishing meal. Plus, who isn’t impressed by a striking, magenta-hued dip?
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Smoky Beetroot Hummus
Serves 6

3 small beets, about 1/2 lb
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsps tahini
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chile flakes
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tbsps chopped dill
French Feta, for serving
Crackers, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Rinse the beets. Pierce them a few times with a fork, place in a small, greased baking dish, and cover with aluminum foil.

3. Roast until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. While the beets roast, add the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, pressed garlic, sea salt, paprika, and chile flakes to the bowl of a food processor. Don’t combine yet. Set aside.

5. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them. Dice the beets and add to the food processor.

6. Puree until a smooth (or chunky, if you prefer) puree forms. You may need to add a tbsp or two of olive oil to thin. (I didn’t.)

7. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl, garnished with the pistachios and dill.
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Fall Salad With Delicata Squash & Kale
Serves 6 to 8

For the squash:
2 delicata squash
3 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

For the salad:
1/2 cup red quinoa
3/4 cup water
1 bunch curly purple kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
5 tbsps olive oil
2 tsps maple syrup
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ancho powder
2 small garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Sea salt
1/2 cup shelled pepitas
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Slice the delicate squash in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and reserve. (Roast the seeds, tossed in salt, at 300°F in a toaster oven until crisped and golden.)

3. Slice the squash halves into crescents. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 3 tbsps of olive oil with the paprika, chipotle powder, and sea salt. Toss the squash with the oil mix. Arrange the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until browned and tender, turning once, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

4. In a small pot with a lid, add the quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

5. While the squash roasts, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice and zest, 5 tbsps olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, ancho chile powder, garlic cloves and a pinch of sea salt.

6. In a large mixing bowl, toss the dressing with the kale, working it into the leaves with your fingers. Set aside.

7. Toast the pepitas in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown and pop, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

8. To make the salad, combine the quinoa, pepitas, and Cotija cheese with the dressed kale.

9. Top with the delicata squash and cranberries. Serve at room temperature.
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Savory Chickpea Pancakes With Smoky Roasted Carrots
Pancake recipe adapted from David Lebovitz’s Socca and inspired by 101 Cookbooks’ Silverdollar Socca
Serves 4 to 6

For the pancakes:
1 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 cup water
2 tbsps olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt

For the carrots:
1 bunch rainbow carrots (about 6 to 8 carrots)
2 tbsps olive oil, plus more for cooking
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

For serving:
Greek yogurt
Micro greens or sprouts

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Combine the garbanzo flour, water, olive oil, cumin, and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine. Set aside.

3. Peel the carrots, if desired, and slice them 1/2-inch thick on the diagonal. Place in a large mixing bowl.

4. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, smoked paprika, cinnamon, chipotle, cumin, and sea salt. Drizzle over the carrots and mix thoroughly to combine.

5. Transfer the carrots to a baking sheet. Roast for about 15 to 18 minutes, until browned at the edges and cooked through but firm.

6. While the carrots roast, make the pancakes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Measure a scant 1/4 cup of the batter and pour into the pan. Repeat to work in batches of 3 to 4 pancakes at a time. Cook, undisturbed, until the edges are golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until deeply golden brown. Transfer to a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm.

7. To serve, slather a dollop of Greek yogurt and a small handful of micro greens on each pancake. Top with a large spoonful of the roasted carrots. These are best eaten immediately.
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash With Miso
Adapted from Japanese Farm Food
Serves 4

3 tbsps miso
6 tbsps sake
1 small kabocha squash, about 1.5 lbs, seeds removed
3 tbsps sesame oil (or use your favorite neutral oil)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Gomasio, optional, for garnish

1. In a small bowl, muddle the miso with 3 tbsps of the sake. Slice the kabocha lengthwise into thin wedges. (Hachisu recommends 1/8-inch thick, but I found that very challenging with this dense squash.) Slice those wedges in half.

2. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil with the red pepper flakes. When the oil is hot, add the squash and toss to coat.

3. Add the remaining sake and toss again.

4. Cover and cook until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 10 minutes. Add the miso-sake paste, stirring carefully to evenly coat the squash.

5. Garnish with a little gomasio if desired. Serve warm.
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Pumpkin & Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Serves 6

15 oz can coconut milk
1 level cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Optional toppings:
Chopped crystallized ginger
Ginger snaps
Chopped nuts, such as pecans, almonds or walnuts

1. First, freeze your ice cream bowl for at least 24 hours. I have learned the hard way that under-freezing it will yield something more like chilled soup and less like ice cream.

2. In a medium pot over the lowest heat, combine the coconut milk and pumpkin puree with the brown sugar and spices. Stir just until the sugar has dissolved and the spices are thoroughly incorporated.

3. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and chill in the freezer for about 2.5 hours. Stir once an hour as the edges begin to freeze.

4. Remove the custard from the freezer.

5. Have your ice cream machine ready. Take the freezer bowl out last. Pour the custard into the ice cream bowl, and churn until it has the consistency of a soft-serve ice cream, about 10 minutes. It doesn’t need very much time at all!

6. You can serve it this way, or let it firm up a little more in the freezer. It will get rock hard if left in for too long, probably because of the water content in the pumpkin puree.
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Photograph by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Mulled White Wine
Serves 4

1 (750 ml.) bottle dry, fruity white wine, such as a dry Riesling or Viognier
2 tablespoons honey
6 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
2 large slices ginger
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
Tools: saucepan, spoon
Glass: mug
Garnish: 1 firm red pear, such as Starkrimson, cored and thinly sliced

1. In a pot over low heat, warm the wine and honey. Once the honey is dissolved, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, and peppercorns.

2. Mull, covered, over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, being careful to not let the mixture boil.

3. To serve, divide the warm mulled wine among 4 mugs.
Add 1 or 2 slices of red pear to each mug and, if desired, garnish with some of the spices used to mull the wine.

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food, written and photographed by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).
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