Just because fall is coming doesn’t mean the grill goes in the garage. Slightly cooler weather can make for better grilling (who wants to sweat over a hot fire?). And grilled food enlivens a fall menu.
For a change of pace, try Cornish hens. Their taste is mild and delicate enough to handle robust marinades. And their petite size lends them to more festive presentations.
Here, the hens are cloaked in an orange marinade and finished on the grill at the end of their cooking with an orange marmalade glaze. The glaze goes on at the last minute so it doesn’t burn. The warm spinach salad is a perfect accompaniment to the hens, a fresh and vibrant mix. It’s an easy way to get spinach on the table.
Cooler weather also offers a chance to serve heartier, seasonal side dishes, such as this wild rice with dried apricots, which can be made ahead. The tricky aspect is cooking the wild rice. Check the rice often after 30 minutes and turn off the heat while the rice is still a little chewy. Overcook it, and the grains will split open and turn too mushy for this salad.