By Lindsey McClave

For me, fall hits the seasonal sweet spot, when the temperature cools and the trees begin to alight in a rainbow of red hues. The markets trade out fresh tomatoes and peppers for mounds of knobby squashes and gourds, a spattering of cabbage, and more hardy greens than one could ever wish for.

Fall is the season of spice as well — the craving for dishes and drinks laced with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. In honor of autumn, here’s a cocktail party menu highlighted by savory crostini topped with a cinnamon-tinged butternut squash purée, bacon, and Brussels sprouts, and a hummus dip with a twist — roasted cauliflower, which is a tasty substitution for the traditional chickpeas. Paired with an apple-scented cocktail mixed with Louisville’s own Copper & Kings apple brandy and crafted by my husband, Zach McClave, this spread embraces the flavors of fall and is the ideal way to indulge in all that autumn has to offer.

The ABC (Apple Brandy Cocktail)
Makes One Drink
2 ounces Copper & Kings apple brandy
1 ounce lillet blanc wine
1 half ounce green chartreuse liqueur
1 slice of local apple
3 dashes bitters

Add the apple slice, bitters, lillet blanc, and green chartreuse to a cocktail shaker (do not add ice). Dry shake the mixture for 15 seconds. Fill a mixing glass with ice and add the contents of the cocktail shaker. Add the apple brandy and stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled lowball glass and add one large ice cube. Serve immediately.

Butternut Squash, Bacon, & Brussels Sprout Crostini
Makes 15-20
1 baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
2 cups cubed butternut squash, seeds and skin removed
½ lb Brussels sprouts quartered, woody end and outer leaves removed
4 slices bacon
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the quartered Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and toss with one tsp olive oil, ¼ tsp kosher salt and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Place in the preheated oven along with a rimmed baking sheet holding the bacon. Roast the bacon and Brussels sprouts for 15-20 minutes — tossing the Brussels sprouts half way — until the bacon is crisp and the Brussels sprouts are browned. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Place the Brussels sprouts in a bowl and set aside. Once the bacon has cooled, slice into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

While the Brussels sprouts and bacon are cooking, place the butternut squash in a rimmed sauté pan with a lid. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan along with ¼ tsp kosher salt and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Bring the pan to a simmer and cover, allowing the squash to steam for 10 minutes, until fork tender. Drain any remaining water from the pan and transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the honey, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and add additional salt and pepper to season to your preference.

Layer the slices of baguette on a large baking sheet. Spread a layer of the butternut squash purée on each piece of bread and then top with the Brussels sprouts, bacon, and goat cheese. Cook the crostini in the 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, until the goat cheese begins to melt. Remove to a platter and serve.

Cauliflower Hummus
Makes 1 cup
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 large garlic clove
juice from ½ lemon
¼ cup tahini
¼ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
½-¾ cup olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
assorted raw veggies from the farmers’ market for dipping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet and toss with 2 tsp olive oil, ¼ tsp kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing once mid-way, until the cauliflower is browned and fork tender. Remove from the oven and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic clove, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Blend until well mixed and the cauliflower begins to form a crumbly paste.

With the blade running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. Once the mixture has become smooth (it will still be a bit coarse due to the cauliflower), taste and add additional oil if necessary. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and transfer the hummus to a bowl. Serve with sliced local veggies and crackers.

What is your favorite fall recipe? If you’re searching for more delicious dinner ideas, you can find them here.