September dinner party ideas
August 26, 2009 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Late summer dinner party ideas?

We are planning a dinner party for mid-late September and I'm trying to come up with some ideas for a menu. As much as I love to cook with fresh (local) fruits and vegetables, I don't usually give much thought to seasonal cooking, so I thought it would be fun to try to highlight foods that really capture the end-of-summer vibe (something like this squash and chickpea stew).

Some details:
-- Vegetarian meals preferred, although some meat/fish is definitely OK (we will have one non meat eater). Either way, we tend to prefer meat as an accent/seasoning, as opposed to the main course.
-- We don't have a grill, but we do have a broiler.
-- Other than the meat thing, we're a pretty adventurous bunch, and I'm willing to source weird ingredients if the recipe is worth it.
-- Dessert ideas are also welcome, as are wine/beer/spirits pairings.
posted by rossination to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Spaghetti served with roast butternut squash with garlic, fresh chilli, and lemon. Just roast the squash in chunks, then very quickly fry the chilli and garlic in olive oil before mixing it all with the cooked pasta. Stir in some fresh rocket or spinach along with a little squirt of lemon then a touch of parmesan on top.
posted by Jakey at 5:07 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, should have said that the squash is even better if you add a few sprigs of thyme when roasting.
posted by Jakey at 5:09 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think a gravadlax and vodka lunch party is singularly AWESOME. Elegant, fun and memorable, people generally can't believe you cured the salmon yourself, and what you have to do on the day is mainly assemble, without even really baking or cooking - summer happiness is a cool kitchen!

Start about a week before the date. What you need is a couple of bottles of a great vodka or even aquavit. Put it in the freezer. You could even get fancy in the lead up with a bit of a Martha presentation on the bottles...

Buy an incredible side of impecably fresh salmon and cure it; I use Tessa Kiros's recipe from Falling Clouberries, but this recipe will serve you well too. Just as a tip though, I pack the cure around the salon on all sides like thick snow, and wrap it tightly in foil, then I put it in tightly sealed plastic container in the fridge and just flip the container over twice a day for about four days.

The day before, gather together:
Crème Fraiche or sour cream, cornichons, finely dice some spanish onion, hard boil some eggs in preparation for chopping the whites and yolks separately on the day, capers, lemon wedges, a pepper grinder, butter, and boil and chill some tiny little potatoes. If you are feeling energetic, prepare to make some tiny buckwheat blini on the morning of the lunch. Also gather the ingredients to make the mustard sauce on the morning of the party too.

Buy some lovely fresh cucumbers, more dill, some mineral water and an abundance of fresh bread. I like sour dough or thinly sliced dark rye for this. Also, flowers for the table. This is the ideal time to bring out seventies crockery - you know, all those roughly hewn brown glazed plates and whatnot.

On the day pull out some kind of big platter - I favour a large wooden cutting board trencher thing. Set the table with plates, butter knives, napkins, water glasses and shot glasses.

Take the salmon out of the cure and wipe it dry. Admire. It should look gorgeous. Now slice half of it into paper thin slices, and put the remaining fish and slices in the centre of the platter. I do this because it's great to have slices to get the party started and nice to slice to order later on. Now around the gravadlax, arrange, in piles, your garnishes of egg, onion, cornichons, lemons, capers. Put the blini on a plate, the chilled potatoes in a bowl (sprinkle of dill) and the sliced bread in a basket. Set out butter, and a pot of crème fraiche.

Thinly slice the cucmbers (I mean SUPER thinly) and arrange them in a lovely single layer on a dinner plate, I do an overplapping thing all the way to the edge of the plate. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar, and drizzle with a bit of vinegar, grind pepper over and sprinkle with chopped dill. Rest a fork on top, this is your cucumber garnish. Put it on the table with the rest.

Now when everyone turns up, they sit around the table and make up their own gravadlax treats - spread the blini with crème fraiche, top with slices of salmon, sprinkle on onions or eggs - whatever you like. Drink the vodka and enjoy.
posted by lottie at 5:18 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

I've made this lasagna and it's delicious and very fall like. Easy for a party, since you're by default making a large batch.

I'd serve it with a vibrant beet salad (using multiple colors of beets), maybe with quinoa tossed in. Use a bit of balsamic to call back to the balsamic in the lasagna.

For dessert? Poached pears. Here are some examples:
Cranberry poached pears.
Vanilla poached pears.
Poached Pears with a Red Wine Reduction and Honey Cream Cheese.
An autumn favorite of mine is poaching the pears in some maple an water mixture, and serving with home made whipped cream. I think adding brandy and spices to that would be lovely.

Hell, I think I may need to be hosting my own autumn dinner party now.
posted by piratebowling at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2009

Sorry - realise I posted fish as a main course, but it's really part of a larger array of plates, if you know what I mean.
posted by lottie at 5:34 PM on August 26, 2009

Campari and pink grapefruit juice is a DEE LIGHTFUL cocktail. Oh it's so so so good, very summery and refreshing.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2009

I love making a cold fruit soup for an early course. Strawberry works especially well, but I've also made canteloupe.

This is my favorite main course ever, usually paired with steamed broccoli or carrots.

Easy desserts:
Watermelon popsicles

Or, make roasted Asian pairs. Cut an asian pear in half like you'd cut an apple in half, and then take the core out. Fill the hole with honey and stick a cinnamon stick in it. Wrap it in parchment paper and bake it at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
posted by honeybee413 at 5:48 PM on August 26, 2009

You're in Seattle... what's local and fresh in September? What is bursting off the trees and out of the ground?

Buy them from your favourite farmers' market. Talk to purveyors a couple weeks beforehand (and I see you probably know some already), tell them you're planning a party for X date, ask them what they will have that is exploding with flavour and freshness. Get their suggestions for what to do with them. Protip: the fresher and closer to the field your ingredients are, the less fucking around you should do with them. Is corn harvested in the area? Is it still in season then? Corn cobs, on the grill. Add butter, salt, pepper. You need nothing more. (Okay, you could e.g. wrap them in bacon, wrap the whole thing back in the husks and grill-roast them that way).

But seriously... just go fresh and local. And as an added bonus, you get to support your local producers; when someone says "where did you get that incredible squash," you respond with "Oh that's from Bert at the market, the third booth on the left."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:32 PM on August 26, 2009

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