Labor Day weekend has come at last. The holiday was first celebrated in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York, and was made official in 1894. Today, the holiday seems to denote the "End of Summer," although its original honoring of the every day working people of our country should not be forgotten.
In South Santa Clara County, Labor Day weekend barbecues celebrate something else, too: two more months of golden summer like days with a little less heat. Without further ado, here is a list of five recipe ideas for your Labor Day weekend celebrations:
1. Black Bean and Corn Salad
Now that sweet corn is fresh and abundant at local markets, it's easy to get inspired to do something different with it. Black bean and corn salad is a festive and easy dish, and it can also be served as an appetizer with tortilla chips. Try this super easy and delicious recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray:
1 can, 14 ounces, black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh corn cornels from your local market
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand at least 15 minutes for corn to fully defrost and flavors to combine, then toss and serve. The corn will also place a quick-chill on this easy side-salad as it defrosts, no need to refrigerate.
2. Fresh Spring Rolls
This is a refreshing and fun appetizer, and they are actually surprisingly easy to make. The round rice paper spring roll wrappers just need to be submerged in a tub of water for a few seconds, and they will become less rigid and pliable within a minute, in which time, you can fill them with the fillings you have prepared.
Try them with:
Thin rice noodles
A sprinkle of sesame seeds
Marinated tofu or shrimp
And the key ingredient: a few mint leaves.
Simply wrap up the ingredients and slice in half with a very sharp knife for a pretty presentation. Serve immediately, with a sweet chili sauce or a peanut dipping sauce.
3. Stuffed Squash
Summer Squash is at its peak, so why not try something a little different. Stuffed squash is one of those easy dishes with a very impressive presentation. You can keep the stuffing vegetarian, using tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers and onions, or you can go for a more hearty meat stuffing using locally made sausage or ground beef. Try this easy recipe for stuffed squash with sausage, onions and breadcrumbs courtesty of Diana Rattray:
4 to 6 medium yellow squashes
4 ounces fresh sausages
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 slices fresh bread, crumbled
Seasoned salt, to taste
Boil squash whole until just tender; remove and carefully split lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out pulp, taking care not to break shells. Set pulp aside. Place squash shells in a baking dish.
In skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage with onion. Add salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat. Add squash pulp, bread crumbs, and seasoned salt. Add a little water if the mixture is too dry.
Stuff squash shells with the sausage mixture and bake at 375° until browned.
Serves 6 to 8.
4. Chicken Tacos with Charred Tomatoes
Tacos are a very convenient and delicious dish to serve when you are expecting a large crowd of guests, because each person can make their own to their liking. You can use any meat, from grilled skirt steak, to fish or marinated pork. This recipe for Chicken Tacos with Charred Tomatoes is on the healthier side of the taco spectrum, courtesy of Eating Well Magazine. This recipe makes six tacos, so double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you are feeding.
2 plum tomatoes, cored
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, chopped
6 small corn tortillas, heated
Heat a medium skillet over high heat until very hot. Add tomatoes and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise; squeeze to discard seeds. Remove cores and chop the remaining pulp and skin.
Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan and heat over high heat until very hot. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and no longer pink in the middle, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add lime juice, the chicken and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cilantro and scallions. Divide the chicken mixture among tortillas. Serve with lime wedges.
5. Grilled Peaches
The peaches at local markets are bigger than ever now, and they are so juicy and sweet. They would make a delicious dessert in themselves, but grilling them and serving them warm with vanilla ice cream is an amazing treat and pretty simple to do. Try this recipe for Sweet Grilled Peaches, courtesy of Allrecipes.com. You can also use brown sugar and/or maple syrup instead of honey, and if you don't want to light up the grill, they are fantastic in the broiler too.
1 (16 ounce) package frozen peach slices
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat a grill for medium heat. Place peaches onto a large piece of aluminum foil. Use two if necessary to hold in all of the peaches without spillage. Drizzle the honey over the peaches, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Close up the foil, sealing tightly.
Place the foil packet onto the preheated grill, and cook for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Carefully open the packet, and serve with a scoop of ice cream.