A few things to consider when planning a November dinner party: It’s important to celebrate the newly arrived fall produce and the change in weather. It’s time for all manner of warming, homey fare. But also: The month signals the start of “the holiday season” and all its various temptations.
My approach here emphasizes simplicity and bright flavors — and lightness: ginger-spiced carrot soup to open the meal; bay leaf-lemon fish fillets roasted in a hot oven; and a sweet salad of navel orange and pomegranate. It’s an easy meal to produce, but it’s also totally possible to accessorize with heartier fare for a more deluxe meal.
Recipe: Spicy Carrot-Ginger Soup
For a first course, let’s proceed with the theory that everyone likes soup and that some soups are better than others. Soup isn’t difficult, but success is in the details. When preparing a puréed vegetable soup, keep a few tips in mind. Build flavor as you go, layering onion, spices and your vegetable of choice.
And make sure the broth in which the vegetables simmer is well seasoned from the start, and cook them until soft, but not mushy. You don’t want the all-too-familiar stodgy, too-thick purée, bland as baby food. The ideal consistency for me is one similar to that of a thin milkshake or heavy cream.
If the soup is not to be served immediately, cool after puréeing, and reheat it just before serving — it will taste fresher.
You might think of squash for an autumn soup, but I chose carrots, stewed with ginger and jalapeño and finished with a spoonful of zingy ginger-chive cream. Feel free to try it with kabocha or butternut squash.
Recipe: Roasted Fish With Cumin, Lemon and Bay
For a main course, this easy fish dish features a mix of flavors born to be together, enjoyed in many Middle Eastern dishes — cumin, lemon and bay laurel, so fragrant and satisfying.
Use any firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as halibut, snapper or rockfish. The fish can be roasted, uncovered, in a hot oven or a covered grill, or broiled. The lemon and bay get slightly charred, and their perfume immediately infuses the fish in a beautiful way.
I like to serve this fish with little boiled potatoes, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil over everything. If you wish for something fancier, pair it with spinach rice, or serve with quickly wilted spinach or chard.
Recipe: Orange Salad With Pomegranate
For dessert, a simple fruit salad is always welcome, refreshing and palate-cleansing.
Citrus season has begun, with juicy navel oranges, ready to be peeled and sliced. Arrange the slices on a platter, sprinkle with orange blossom water and dust with sugar. Scattered with (also new to the season) ruby pomegranate arils and chopped pistachio, it’s a sight to behold.
Want to doll it up? Surround the platter with Medjool dates or honey dates and serve with almond or walnut cookies.
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