A Stylish Soiree

Elegant but Casual Gathering

Autumn is a lovely season to have friends and family over for dinner. Why not host an elegant but casual gathering in October, before the holiday craziness begins? A table setting of white dishes, woven placemats, copper utensils, and linen napkins decorated with succulent or herb clippings creates a stylish atmosphere conducive to conversation and enjoyment. And this simple menu allows the host to enjoy a stress-free evening. 

Steak Rub

The dinner’s main event is a lovely piece of beef seasoned with this rub created by Chef Eric Carter. He uses it on tri-tip smoked over grapevines, but you could use a steak of your choice grilled or seared in a cast iron skillet. 

3 parts brown sugar

3 parts smoked sea salt

1 part smoked paprika 

½ part coriander 

½ part chili powder

¼ part cayenne pepper

¼ part dried thyme

¼ part cracked pepper

Mix all spices and apply liberally to the beef. Place the seasoned meat in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Allow it to come to room temperature before grilling or searing. 

Cheese Board

While your guests enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine or cocktail, set out a cheese board for them to nibble on. It is much simpler to assemble than a full-on charcuterie board. The basic rule is to offer three types of cheese—one blue (stilton, Roquefort, gorgonzola), one hard (cheddar, gruyere, manchego), and one soft (brie, camembert, Port Salut). Feel free to add olives, nuts, and grapes to the board, or just keep it simple like this one pictured with slices of artisan bread, crackers, and breadsticks. 

Roasted Beet Salad

Recipe by Linda Ditch

6 medium beets

Olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bag of salad greens 

1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

2 ounces of goat or feta cheese 

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

Favorite vinaigrette dressing

Coat the beets with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes until fork tender. Cool for 10 minutes, and then rub with paper towels to peel. (Beet juice stains, so be careful.) Cut the beets and toss with the remaining ingredients. 

Apple Tart

Recipe by Chef Eric Carter

6 to 8 6-inch pie crusts

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups chopped peeled apples (Granny Smith or Golden Delicious)

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

Chopped nuts for garnish

Fresh fruit for garnish

Caramel sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the chopped apples. The sugar and flour mixture will not completely stick to the apples, and that is okay. 

Place the pie dough circles onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Spread the apple mixture uniformly from the center of each circle to within 2 inches of the edge.. Fold the edge of the dough over the apple mixture and crimp the edge of the dough slightly to hold it in place. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar, the nutmeg, and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the apples and the dough.  Cut 1 tablespoon of butter into 5 or 6 pieces and spread on top of the apples. 

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