Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, and next Tuesday will be a little bit sad even for those of us who are not going back to school. So take full advantage of these last few days and send your summer off on a winning note. If you haven’t made these watermelon tequila shot skewers yet, now’s the time. Eat as much fresh corn and zucchini as you possibly can. Host a last-minute barbecue with tips for super-fast grilling. Or savor summer memories with these nostalgic tastes.
When I was a child my grandfather would sometimes barbecue a whole hog to mark the end of summer. He was a honest-to-goodness country boy and knew what he was doing with a pig and a pit. The huge beast was split and slowly cooked on a metal grate set over a pit of gray cement blocks above glowing embers. My grandfather would make a basting mop out of a bent pecan branch and white cotton rags, patiently basting the pig with a potent broth of vinegar and salt, letting heat and smoke slowly transform that pig into our Labor Day feast. My sister, the cousins and I would run around in the nearby yard, begging to stir the coals or add split pieces of oak, absolutely anything to be near this unusual scene that utterly transfixed us. To this day, I can close my eyes and hear the sizzle of the fat as it dripped on the white-hot coals.
Aside from boiling a pot of water for noodles, pasta doesn’t necessarily require the heat of the stove or oven, as sauces can come together with little more than some stirring or blending. And during the dog days of summer like these, that’s indeed welcome news, on account of the scorching temperatures outside. While pesto may be the most-common no-cook sauce, tomato sauces, too, can be served raw, especially at this time of year when tomatoes are at their ripest — and sweetest.
Melissa d’Arabian lets seasonal tomatoes shine in her recipe for light and fresh Mediterranean Summer Pasta with Salsa Cruda (pictured above). The star of this fuss-free supper is a simple yet bold combination of seeded tomatoes, briny olives, salty capers and fragrant mint; after incorporating these go-to ingredients with bright orange zest and olive oil, let their flavors marry for a bit, then top them with just-cooked noodles. The heat of the pasta will gently cook the salsa-like tomato mixture to create a warm, satisfying plate, finished with grated Parmesan for added flavor.
Dill doesn’t get included in nearly as many recipes as, say, thyme or basil. Sure, it’s a unique flavor, and a little dash can seriously alter the taste of a dish, but there are plenty of dishes that can benefit from a bit of the summery herb. It’s great for adding something extra to dressings, sauces, seafood and even tea. Besides its subtle sweet flavor, it also boasts some unexpected health benefits: It helps soothe the digestive system and has a calming effect that can be used as a sleep remedy. So try out some of these recipes and showcase your new favorite herb this summer.
Creamy Dijon-Dill Potato Salad
No summer gathering is complete without a good, creamy potato salad. This elevated version makes use of fresh dill along with Dijon mustard and lemon juice, giving it a sweet, salty, tangy taste that is the perfect complement to some smoky barbecue. Remember, for the best flavor and texture, it’s recommended that you make it a few hours in advance and keep it at room temperature.
Just like the long days and high temperatures that are quintessential parts of summer, the time to enjoy the season’s fresh produce is limited. To preserve summer flavors as long as possible, many resort to pickling, jamming and jarring various fruits and vegetables, but when it comes to tomatoes, canning is the way to go. With just a few everyday tools, you can keep the juicy, fresh taste of sweet summer tomatoes alive all winter long, thanks to an easy-to-master canning process. Read on below to get the dish on canning tomatoes from Sean Timberlake, the founder of a DIY food site, then check out the details in his one-stop guide.
Tomato Picking: There are countless kinds of tomatoes on the market, but Sean recommends plum and San Marzano. “You’ll want to choose a tomato variety with ample meat … and you’ll want them just ripe.”
When you’re battling flames over a blistering-hot grill, who wants to preheat the oven? Even when it comes to something as important as dessert, those added degrees are enough to break your cool when entertaining this summer. Luckily, in lieu of overheating, you can take your pick of Food Network’s finest no-bake desserts that’ll keep your kitchen nice and cold.
Oftentimes, no-bake desserts are no sweat too. Take The Pioneer Woman’s Individual Key Lime Pies (pictured above), for example. Unlike the arguable toil of from-scratch baking, it takes only layering homemade lime curd and whipped cream atop buttery graham cracker crumbs to have you seeing beyond the slice.
When it comes to barbecue, one size most certainly does not fit all. For some, it’s all about nibbling smoky ribs from the bone. For others, a pulled pork sandwich doused in barbecue sauce is where it’s at. And as far as regional differences go (from the Carolinas to Tennessee to Texas), don’t even get us started. This week, conjure your inner grill master with the forerunners of backyard barbecuing.
Pork Ribs: For a barbecue phenomenon that needs no utensils, ribs are always the answer. But the question remains: Will you have yours wet or dry? Cooked indirectly for hours on end, the Neelys’ Wet BBQ Ribs are dripping with a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. For those in the dry school of thought, there’s the Neelys’ Kansas City-Style Pork Ribs recipe, which encrusts the ribs with a dry rub of spices for a dose of pure barbecue.
When a recent trip to the farmers market left me with more peaches than I could get through before some pushy fruit flies set up a serious colony, I did what first sprang to mind: I made a peach crisp. And it was delicious. But just as the last crumbs were gobbled up, a new question loomed: What am I going to do with the other 50 peaches in this box? That’s when I started hunting for delicious ideas and found these.
1. Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze (pictured above): The sweetness of fresh peaches meets just the right amount of heat in this one from Bobby Flay.
2. Fresh Peach Cake: Think of a pineapple upside-down cake, but even more decadent because this is a recipe from Ina Garten — one I can’t wait to make.
3. Grilled Peach Salad with Balsamic Bacon Vinaigrette: Looking to spice up your favorite leafy greens for lunch? Try the magic of crispy bacon plus juicy peaches on top.
Amid getting meats prepped for the grill and making sure cold cocktails are readily available, the last thing you want to worry about while entertaining in the summer is a big, fancy dessert. And to be honest, after all those cocktails, no one is going to fully appreciate that spun-sugar garnish you spent three hours on anyway. So keep things simple. And nothing is simpler than a sweet treat you can make ahead of time and pop in the freezer until it’s time to serve. These recipes utilize bold flavors that hold up well in the icebox, so you and your guests can indulge while keeping cool.
Frozen Key Lime Pie
Ah, what a classic. Summer is the peak of lime season, so this is a great way to showcase the freshest citrus of the year. A graham cracker crust is the perfect bed for the creamy lime filling, adding a bit of sweetness to balance all of the flavors. It takes just 25 minutes to prep and bake, then pop it in the freezer overnight. Plus, think about how much easier it is to divvy up and serve a pie that’s frozen rather than falling all over the place.