Serious Entertaining: Autumnal Dinner Party

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

I've noticed quite a few Talk threads recently asking for ideas for autumnal entertaining. It got me itching to make a fall menu, but one that wasn't based on my go-to pumpkin ravioli or butternut squash lasagna. I sat for a minute and thought about what flavor profiles make me think of fall. Earthy, nutty, warm, and sweet.

When it comes to squash, I usually head straight for the butternut variety, but this time I put a few acorn squashes in my cart. I also picked up dried cranberries, thyme, and shallots. For the first time other than Thanksgiving, I picked up wild rice. Salmon was my last purchase, because as far as entertaining goes, it very rarely disappoints.

Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash with Shallots and Rosemary

Balsamic vinegar is a magical ingredient. Its sweet yet acidic nature brings out the best in almost anything it glazes. Here I've used it on squash because it seems to be the quintessential fall vegetable. When roasted, the squash becomes beautifully golden and its soft sweetness is a nice counterpoint to the oniony shallots. Finally, chopped rosemary adds an herbal, earthy edge to the sweet and sour glaze.

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Wild Rice Salad


In some long ago classroom I learned of wild rice's importance in the Native American diet and how the European settlers mistook this grass for rice. To this day, it reminds me of fall. While I usually use it in stuffing, wild rice makes a satisfying salad. The rice is chewy and nutty, and complemented by toasted almonds. It gets perked up from fresh scallions and a bit of tartness from dried cranberries.

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Salmon with Thyme Butter


Just a few ingredients are needed to create this rich tasting dish. The trick is topping oven-roasted salmon with sauteed shallots and thyme infused butter. The simple sauce plays up salmon's full flavored, slightly sweet nature and is a nice pairing to the herbal flavors in the roasted acorn squash.

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