Labor Day recipes for the ultimate end-of-summer bash

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By: Lydia Sheaks
lsheaks@elkharttruth.com

Labor Day is summer’s unofficial last hurrah before fall brings pumpkins, Halloween costumes and cornucopias. 

Whether you’re planning a party or just looking for some fresh ideas for the family, here’s a few suggestions about how to spice up your Labor Day menu.

Combine favorite party foods with delicious results

So you’ve got the chips, but what should you serve as a dip? Try this recipe for Guacamole Hummus from marthastewart.com

You’ll need: 

  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Lemon wedges

Put it together: 

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, cilantro, garlic, and avocado. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, then add lemon juice, and then add water, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges and tortilla chips.

Add an unexpected twist to a traditional dish

Sure, you’ve had pasta salad. But this Mexican Macaroni Salad from The Pioneer Woman includes cumin and salsa for a zippy taste.

You’ll need: 

For salad:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked, drained and rinsed in cold water
  • 2 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 6 roma tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • chopped cilantro (optional)

For dressing: 

  • 1 cup salsa (spicy is best!)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 limes, juiced (optional)

Put it together: 

Grill the corn on a grill pan, or just place it in a hot skillet to brown some of the kernels. Remove from pan, allow to cool slightly, then use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cob.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined.

Place the macaroni, corn, beans, olives, tomatoes, green onions, red onion, and cilantro (if using) in a large bowl. Pour 3/4 of the dressing over the top and gently toss until all the ingredients are coated. Add the final 1/4 of the dressing if you think it needs it. Cover and allow salad to chill for 2 hours.

Garnish with cilantro, lime wedge, and any other extra ingredients you have.

Try something new on the grill

The grill loves steak and burgers, but you can also to use it to make these tasty-looking Rosemary Salmon Skewers from delish.com.

You’ll need: 

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes

Put it together: 

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine rosemary, oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add salmon; toss to coat. Alternating the salmon and tomatoes, divide among eight 12-inch skewers.

Oil the grill rack. Grill the skewers, carefully turning once, until the salmon is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. Serve immediately.

Skip the punch and fix this fancy spritzer

Make it with alcohol or not, depending on what you and your guests prefer. This Raspberry Spritzer recipe is from eatingwell.com.

You’ll need: 

Put it together:

Combine seltzer, raspberries, mint and raspberry-flavored syrup (or Chambord) in a small pitcher. Pour over ice.

Use summer fruit for a delicious finish

This Plum Berry Crisp from gourmet.com uses plums, blackberries and blueberries, and best of all you can decide how much added sugar you need. 

You’ll need: 

For filling:

  • 1 1/2 lb purple plums, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
  • For topping:
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Put it together: 

Preheat oven to 425ºF with rack in upper third.

Toss together all filling ingredients in a 2-quart shallow baking dish and bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend together all topping ingredients in a bowl with your fingertips until butter is evenly distributed and mixture is crumbly.

Stir fruit filling, then sprinkle oat mixture over it and bake until topping is crisp and golden and fruit is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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