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The Cookstr 10: Ten Recipes for Labor Day

September 3, 2010

Did you have a bunch of big barbecues this summer? Are you game for one more? Of course you are. You are well aware that this weekend marks the official end of summer. You are well aware that momentarily you will be chatting with your friends, wondering where the summer went, yearning for the luxury of the longer days.

Sharon Crayton's Crunchy Taco Salad

You may well be purchasing school binders and eying the Halloween candy at the supermarket. You may be scraping the beach sticker off your car. We swear we just saw turkey-patterned paper goods on sale, but we marched right by them, looking the other way. Perhaps you’re foresighted enough to be purchasing your Thanksgiving napkins before Labor Day; we, however, are planning one last blowout summer party. We hope you can join us.

Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner's Sherry Trifle

“There are moments where the season prescribes and the cook simply fulfills.” This lyrical line comes from The Four Seasons Cookbook, published 30 years ago, and it couldn’t more perfectly describe this time of year. In fact, it’s such a great sentence that we’re going to leave it at that.

1. Rick Rodgers’ Spinach-Leek Dip. We have all happily gathered around that bowl of wonderfully flavorful dip, the kind that starts out with a package of dried herbs and spices, and we have had nothing bad to say about it. However, if you want to win friends and influence people, stirring up a bowl of the homemade version of this classic dip is a heck of a way to kick off a party.

2. Janet Fletcher’s Marinated Bocconcini. Bocconcini is Italian for “little mouthfuls,” and these little balls of marinated creamy mozzarella are perpetually beguiling. Pretty vine-ripened cherry and grape tomatoes of all colors and salty olives and capers complete this easy summery appetizer.

3. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s Brazilian Marinated Steaks with Chile Lime Sauce. When you throw a steak on the grill, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a neighbor pop by, remembering to return that screwdriver he borrowed way long ago…”What, this isn’t yours? Funny, I thought it was. Hey, something smells great.”

4. Debbie Meyer-Gore’s Pineapple Shrimp Skewers with Honey Marinade. If you’re looking for a burst of new flavors at the end of the summer, this unusual glaze will give your taste buds a run for their money. Ginger, garlic, rum, honey, pepper, sesame oil, and plum sauce combine into a very simple but somewhat exotic marinade that infuses the shrimp, which are then skewered up with chunks of pineapple. Far from the same-old, same-old.

5. John Ash’s Lemony Potato Salad with Olives, Corn, and Cashews. There are simple potato salads, and then there are potato salads that threaten to hog the spotlight. This is the latter, with a formidable lemon-tarragon dressing, Kalamata olives, and toasted cashews. A great vegetarian dish, and with the nuts for protein it earns its place in the center of the plate.

6. Debra Ponzek’s Tuna with Grilled Vegetables and Provençal Vinaigrette. This is a centerpiece dish: ruby red fish with dark cross-hatches, a rainbow of colors from the assortment of vegetables, all drizzled with a pinkish tomatoey vinaigrette. This showstopper is a one-way ticket to Provence.

7. Sharon Crayton’s Crunchy Taco Salad. If the word “salad” conjures up a delicate pile of leafy greens, a prelude to a main course, then this dish may need another name. This is a full on vegetarian main course, loaded with beans, chiles, tomatoes, cheese, and crunchy tortilla chips, all bound together with a creamy, spicy avocado dressing. You can absolutely serve it as part of a summer menu, but it’s no slouch all by its lonesome.

8. Diane Morgan’s The Big Beef Burger Stuffed with Blue Cheese. Seared on the outside, a melty nugget of blue cheese in the center, these sit firmly in the category of not-just-another-burger. A fitting way to salute the end of summer. Pass the pickles.

9. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Sherry Trifle. A trifle is a British dessert made with layers of custard, fruit, cake moistened with some kind of liquid (sherry, in this case), often jam or jelly, and whipped cream. It’s cheery to look at and fun to eat, and since you can play around with whatever fruit is in season, infinitely malleable.

10. Jody Adam’s Grilled Pineapple with Rum, Lime-Ginger, and Ice Cream. A syrup spiced with ginger, vanilla, bay leaves, citrus, star anise, and the island-y addition of black pepper turns pineapple into a sophisticated dessert, especially when finished off with scoops of ice cream and ribbons of fresh mint. The firm texture and built-in sweetness of pineapple makes it a very grillable fruit.

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