[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

After more than a year of themed dinners and poppin' parties, it's time for me to turn all my attention (and calories) to sweets. Every menu for Serious Entertaining has been fun to make, but there are just some dishes that I keep serving again and again.

Here are my favorite starters, entrees, sides, and desserts. The theme is up to you.



Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Fritters) with Tzatziki

Eggs and feta make these fritters fluffy and creamy on the inside, while a turn in hot oil gives them a crispy crust on the outside. Served hot with a large dollop of cool, cucumbery tzaziki, these kolokithokeftedes are just heavenly.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

The hardest part of making this tart is waiting patiently while the onions slowly caramelize into sweet, dark brown threads. I promise it's worth the wait; after they've cooked down, the onions are a perfect match for both tangy goat cheese and earthy thyme.

Pão de Queijo

Pão de queijo is a type of popular Brazilian cheese bread. Serve these bite-sized versions while they are still hot and chewy as a perfect salty foil to the cocktails.



Spicy Ginger Noodle Soup

This noodle soup will cure what ails you. First, chicken broth is flavored with slices of fresh ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, and just enough chili paste to clear your nose. Slices of chicken and shiitake mushrooms add body while slivers of red peppers and whole sugar snap peas add brightness and crunch. For extra flavor, the soup is garnished with cilantro and scallions.

Greek Potato and Olive Stew

The beauty of this dish is how the starchiness of the potatoes is cut by the briny tang of the kalamata olives. Oregano adds an undeniable Greek touch, as do the cubes of salty feta that melt in the hot stew.

Zucchini Corn Tacos with Queso Fresco

These vegetarian tacos go way beyond rice and beans. Zucchini is sautéed until crisp-tender in a sauce made from onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Roasted poblanos add smokiness and freshly shucked corn kernels add crunch and a hint of sweetness. When the tangy crema is swirled in, this taco filling becomes rich and velvety. They're heavenly with some some crumbled, salty queso fresco passed alongside.



Saffron Rice with Chorizo

Using short grained bomba or arborio rice gives this dish a creamy consistency similar to that of a risotto. The rice gets a slight sweetness and beautiful golden color from threads of saffron, and peas add a pop of freshness. Use the best olive oil in your pantry to finish off the dish, and try not to hog all the deliciously spicy hunks of fried chorizo.

Spiced Carrot Salad with Olives

A combination of coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, and toasted cumin gives the carrots an earthy spiciness that plays against salty, vinegary olives and refreshing cilantro.

Rosemary and Black Olive Fougasse

Fougasse is a traditional Provencal bread that's shaped like a tree, wheat, or ladder. A measure of olive oil in the dough gives the loaf a subtle fruity flavor and a soft, chewy crumb. In this version, piney rosemary is paired with salty black olives, making each slice super savory and incredibly addictive.



Key Lime Bars

These Key Lime Bars have a smooth, tart key lime filling topped by a layer of sweet meringue and a rich, buttery crust.

Pecan Pie Bars

These bars are pecan pie taken to the next level. The topping is just as gooey, sweet, and nutty as the filling of a pecan pie, except here deep, smooth caramel has replaced corn syrup. The crust is essentially one slightly salty, rich and buttery cookie.

Lemon Mousse

The combination of lemon zest and juice makes this mousse sweet yet refreshing while freshly whipped cream is folded in to give the perfect airy texture.

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios


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