A vegetarian BBQ menu for Labor Day

Back with another Labor Day menu.  If you missed the antipasti-themed menu, here it is.  As with before, this menu is a mix of some of our own recipes and ones I’ve seen floating around other blogs that have caught my attention.  I haven’t made them all yet, but I hope to…maybe this weekend?

SALADS

corn, cucumber and tomato salad

Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad (with green beans!) from Joy the Baker

Heirloom tomato and peach salad from A Couple Cooks

Here’s some more corn recipes, because if you’re anything like me, you want to eat A LOT of corn before the summer is up.  This recipe sounds awesome:  Roasted corn with manchego and lime from the Wednesday Chef. Or, if you prefer your corn to stay on its cob, I love the idea of making different flavored butters: Corn butters from A Muse in my Kitchen.

MAINS

BBQ tempeh burger with jalapeno slaw

Portobello and Peach Burger from Green Kitchen Stories on Design Sponge (I think I’d sub blue cheese for the guacamole)

And I’m really digging on the concept of feta or haloumi (/halloumi/halumi) skewered on veggie kebobs.  Apparently it doesn’t turn into a melted puddle.  I haven’t tried that yet, but can’t wait to give it a shot.  Here’s a bunch of veggie kebob recipes from The Kitchn.

DESSERT

Cobbler is always a favorite of mine.  And naturally I love my own recipe (though, make the desserty version of it, with 1/2 c of sugar on the fruit).

stone fruit cobber with a yummy almond topping

But, much as I love cobbler, I will admit that right now, for this BBQ menu, I might prefer an ice cream cake or pie. Still something fruity and fresh.  Or maybe citrusy?  I’m thinking something like meyer lemon ice cream in a gingersnap crust topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries.  But…I haven’t found a recipe for that yet…

DRINKS

Finally, the drinks.  Here’s a few that get me excited (and some other people, I guess — the blackberry bourbon lemonade was our most popular post of the summer):

blackberry bourbon lemonade

the john daly: sweet tea, lemonade and vodka

the chelada: light beer and lime juice

What’s your Labor Day style?  Which menu calls to you more, the antipasti menu or the BBQ menu?  Do you have any Labor Day or BBQ favorites?

An antipasti themed menu for Labor Day

Now that Irene has mostly come and gone and people seem to be doing generally well, I think it’s time to start talking about what to cook for Labor Day.  I can barely believe it’s next weekend.  As I was hemming and hawing over what I wanted to make, I put together this menu.  It’s buffet style and based on an antipasti theme.

Lots of small plates with fresh ingredients is probably my favorite way of eating, though I suppose that’s not totally reflected yet in the recipes I’ve put together on this blog (…we’re working on it slowly but surely…).  So, in addition to calling out a few of our own recipes (just click on the picture to open the recipe), I’m also linking to several recipes from other sites that are speaking to me.

Clearly making all of these recipes would be a little crazy, but if you do, could you invite me over?

SMALL PLATES

Start with a couple types of olives and a few nice cheeses.  Maybe a big bowl of hummus.  Then add a few more salads/side dishes and possibly a soup.  Here’s some recipes that are current favorites:

simple white bean salad

summer split pea soup

Also…

Shaved fennel salad from 101 Cookbooks

Roasted peppers with capers and mozzarella from Smitten Kitchen (maybe replace the mozzarella with burrata?)

Tomato salad with olives and coriander salad from Yummy Supper

Now would also be a tremendous time for bruschetta with a caponata or mushroom topping to provide a bit of an anchor for all of the salads, but I’m not finding any recipes I’m totally in love with online (anyone? anyone?).  So, let’s go with this Roasted Eggplant and Zatar pizza from Sprouted Kitchen.

DESSERT

The main meal is light and bright and I think dessert should feel equally fresh.  A nice stone fruit sorbet would be perfect to me.  But, I’d also like a fresh fruit galette (which would feel as rustic and casual as all the salads…and I think galettes look gorgeous on a big table of food) or these beautiful roasted apricots.

pluot sorbet (please mentally replace the book with wine)

Blueberry galette from Lottie + Doof

Simple roasted apricots from Joy the Baker (or maybe peaches would be better this time of year…)

DRINKS

Last but not least, drinks!  There’s definitely wine.  Which will be wonderful.  But, I think it would be nice to add a little extra sparkle to pre-dinner and post-dinner chatting.  So, here’s a few cocktails that would work well.

rosé sangria with peaches and cucumber (this one won an editor's pick at food52!)

tom collins (classic and wonderful)

cucumber-ginger-lime slushies

I’m going to share a BBQ-themed menu in a couple days…and then I’d love to hear which one you like better.  But for now, what are your Labor Day favorites?  Do you have any traditions?  (Other than buying, say, back to school supplies…let’s not talk about school!)

Raspberry Lillet cups

We’re on to week 10 of the summer cocktail series!  To browse through the  past 2.5 months of cocktail fun, check out the Cocktails category.

Now would be a totally appropriate time to drink a hurricane, with Irene bearing down on the East coast and all.  Or, maybe, by the time the evening comes around, it will be more appropriate to drink something called a Tropical Storm, which I momentarily considered inventing this week (I think there are some drinks out there with the name Tropical Storm, but all the recipes I found were too gross).  Rather than focusing on natural disasters, though, I thought it might be a little nicer to concentrate on one of the wonderful parts of late August.  Raspberries.

Growing up I spent July and August working at a local farm.  I remember being a kid, walking the dusty rows of raspberry brambles in the early morning with yogurt containers tied on pieces of twine around my neck.  I was supposed to fill the containers and bring them back to the farm stand for sale.  And I did, eventually.  But I think I ended up eating just as many raspberries as I picked and the sun rose high in the sky before I filled a few quarts (I liked making my rounds about the farm, curiously peering at all the veggies and seeing what was ripe before returning to the stand).  Thankfully for the farm I was only paid $2.50/hour (still not sure how that was legal), because I was a total profit sink.

After those days on the farm, raspberries will always remind me of the fading days of summer.  Sigh.  So, I suppose it’s only appropriate to use them today.  This is the last of the summer cocktail series.  School has started up again and it’s a bit difficult for me to get this post together on Fridays now.  (That said, I have a killer liqueur post in the works, so this will certainly not be the end of cocktails on this blog — we’re just going to take a break from the weekly thing.)

For our series finale, we’re combining those little bursts of sunshine and August with Lillet blanc, a fortified, citrusy aperitif wine. Lillet is yummy.  It also seems to be pretty trendy these days.  I’ve seen it all over cocktail menus this summer, it was on 101 Cookbooks last week, and it even made an appearance on Martha Stewart in June as the “perfect summer cocktail.”  So, I thought I’d contribute to the Lillet fury in this post.  Hopefully, like me, you already have a bottle in hand you’ve been wondering what to do with it, other than drink it straight (which is fine, but I think it’s even better as a mixer…).

Cheers to a wonderful and full summer!

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Simple white bean salad

In my ideal world, there would be a magical little fairy that would supply our refrigerator with a handful of rotating salads.  But, the salad fairy seems to have not found our house quite yet, so I’ve resorted to making some simple salads that hold up well to a few days in the fridge.  Here is one of my recent favorites.  It’s great right after it’s made, but gets even better as it marinates.  It’ll last 3 or 4 days.

For the herbs, use a mix of whatever you have around that veer toward provincial flavors.  I used mostly parsley and thyme, with some rosemary and a wee bit of mint.  I really liked the addition of the mint, but I wouldn’t go too heavy on it.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can substitute with 1 T of dried herbs de provence.

For the beans, I used some cannellini beans that I cooked from the dried beans, but any canned white bean will do just fine.

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Beermosa

Here’s to week 9 of our summer cocktail series!

I had my very first beermosa a couple months back at an awesome little pub in Oakland called Commonwealth Cafe.  Later I did a bit of googling, and it seems that they’re most frequently made with Bud or PBR and are affectionately dubbed hillbilly mimosas.  There’s nothing hillbilly about the Commonwealth beermosa, though.  It’s a real class act.

The difference between the hillbilly and the Commonwealth versions is that Commonwealth makes their beermosas with a wheat beer.  Most recently they were mixing with Ale Industries’ Orange Kush, brewed with orange peels, chamomile and coriander.  Earlier in the summer they were using a white beer.  Really, any sort of lighter wheat beer (like a hefeweisen, not a dunkleweisen) is great.  A blonde ale or a summer ale will also do the trick.

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Corn, cucumber and tomato salad

It’s high time for a salad post to balance out the booze and baked goods.  Especially since it’s that corn and tomato time of year.  So, here’s a simple salad I made the other day for a friend.  Mid-bite she said, “See, this is the kind of stuff you should be putting on your blog!  It’s so easy.”  Or something like that.  I agree.

In this recipe I use white balsamic vinegar, which my step-mom introduced me to a little while back.  It’s really nice on corn, since it conveys a sweet flavor without discoloring the salad.  It used to be pretty hard to find, but now Trader Joe’s stocks it and I’d imagine Whole Foods has it, too.  If you don’t own a bottle, I think it’s worth adding to your vinegar collection.  Just don’t show it to your cultured Italian friends, who will stare and say, “There is no such thing as white balsamic in Italy.”  (Hi, Christina!)

I also used some neat-o lemon cucumbers I happened upon at the farmer’s market.  They’re kind of funny looking, but a cute little kid behind the stand assured me that they were good.  I’m glad I took his word for it.  I really liked them.  But, this recipe will work with whatever cucumbers you have around.

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Two classic Floridita Daiquiris

I can’t believe this is week 8 of our summer cocktail series.  The only good thing about 8 weeks of summer being gone is that we’ve drank some damn fine cocktails along the way, if I do say so myself.  Click on the Cocktails category to catch up with the summer fun!

I am not the first person to write about these drinks.  I initially read about La Floridita daiquiris (or El Floridita, depending on the source) in my most favorite cocktail book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  There are also dozens upon dozens of blog posts and articles about the daiquiris, including the daiquiri Hemingway used to drink (yes, Hemingway again…).  But, oddly, all that nice coverage doesn’t seem to be translating to cocktail menus.

In all the bars I’ve gone to I’ve never noticed a classic daiquiri on the menu.  The closest I’ve seen are plain lime daiquiris and their fruity cousins at poolside bars, Trader Vic’s, and frozen drink dispensers on Bourbon St and in Vegas.  There’s no doubt that I don’t get out to the high class joints often enough, but it seems that bars favoring classic cocktails tend to be short on rum drinks.  More than that, they also tend to run away from blended drinks.  (I know from personal experience that most bartenders hate blenders — at one bar I worked at all the bartenders unanimously agreed that the blender was “broken” for years.)

So, up until today, I’d never had the real deal.  And guess what?  It’s no wonder it’s been made into so many variations.  The original daiquiris are wonderful.

Let’s refocus our collective association of the daiquiri away from the interior of Circus Circus and toward the streets of Old Havana (which I’ve never seen in person).  All photos taken in 2010.  Images courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A few things before we get going.  According to my dear cocktail book, in 1939 La Floridita wrote down the recipes for four daiquiris creatively named #1, #2, #3 and #4.  All of them were served on ice — not blended.  Following the four recipes there was a fifth variation called the “E. Henminway [sic] Special,” a blended version of daiquiri #3.  Vintage Spirits just shares the recipe for #4, but I found a recipe for #3 that seems about right (many others used more lime or dropped the maraschino liqueur).  So, let’s make #4 and then the E. Henminway Special.

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Zucchini, corn and cherry tomato casserole

I knew I wanted to make something with zucchini and corn.  I also wanted there to be leftovers — something I could easily eat for lunch over the next couple days.  For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that a casserole might be the answer.  So I made one.  And it will definitely, definitely not be my last casserole.  It hit the spot.

This dish is total comfort food.  It’s particularly nice when you wake up in August with a cold that’s left your head in a cloud (colds in August = not fair), or even when all the news stories are just so miserable that it feels good to make something simple and grounded.

Contrary to my previous thoughts on casseroles, this is a light dish.  You could eat it as either a main or a side course.  If it’s a main, you may want to pair it with a tossed green salad.  Also, this recipe isn’t fussy.  If you have little bits of leftover grains around your house, you might mix them in place of or in addition to the rice.  I can picture something with millet, quinoa, farro or wheat berries being totally yummy. Continue reading

A blueberry French 75

Cheers to week 7 of our summer cocktail series.  I can’t believe it’s August already.  Check out the Cocktails category to what we were drinking earlier in the summer.

The first time I made a French 75 there was a fortuitous combination of events.  We had recently moved into our house in Oakland and drank most of a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  Most, you say?  Right, who doesn’t finish a bottle of champagne?  No clue.

The next evening, as we were unpacking boxes, I was looking through our very barren fridge to see what I could mix up to drink.  All we had was about a glass of champagne, the tailings of a bottle of gin and a big bag of lemons that we pillaged from the lemon tree of our rental apartment the night before we moved.

At almost the same moment, I opened up a box that had been sealed SINCE COLLEGE (I’ll spare you the long story).  In the box I found a trove of books that I had been gifted sometime in my early twenties, including this vintage cocktail book (thank you, Michelle!).  I was thumbing through it — very pleased at my 23 year old self for squirreling away some cocktail books — when I miraculously read the recipe for the French 75.

Sure enough, the French 75 is made from the very ingredients I had in the fridge.  I was initially skeptical about combing gin and sparkling wine, but boy was I wrong.  This simple old drink is a winner.

Here we’re going to add some muddled blueberries, since blueberries pair perfectly with the flavors in this classic cocktail without overpowering any of the other ingredients.  Depending on your blueberries, though, the flavor they impart can almost be too subtle.  If you have wild blueberries, use those since they’re richer.  If you don’t (and you’re sufficiently organized that you’re planning out your drinks the night before), you might consider muddling some blueberries and leaving them in the gin overnight.  That’ll help impart a deeper blueberry taste and even a fun purpley color (before you serve it, though, strain out the old berries and mix it with new berries).  If none of those options sound good, just use regular old blueberries.  I did.  Some blueberry > no blueberry!  Plus, the blueberries bob up and down in the sparkling wine, which is fun to watch.

Note: Do not leave un-caged, still-corked sparking wine unattended!  There’s literally a hole in our ceiling now (adding to the list of our poor kitchen’s battle wounds).

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Trail mix cookies (oatmeal, dark chocolate and GORP)

These cookies are really doing it for me.  They’re moist, nutty and chunky.  When they’re warm, they overflow with dark chocolate.  As soon as I claim I’ve had enough, I find myself reaching in for another…

I started thinking about trail mix a couple weeks back when Alex and I threw work aside, haphazardly packed the car with whatever gear we could find, and headed off to Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta is a big ole volcano that stands high above its surrounding mountains.  It’s a dramatic mountain.  For those of you who care about these things, the summit rises to 14,162 ft.  The base is at around 7,000 ft.  We planned to hike up in a single day, leaving at 3 am and getting back whenever we did.  Sound exhausting?  It was.  In all the mountains I’ve climbed, I’ve never ascended 7,000 ft vertical in a day.  Let alone after coming from sea level the day before.

It was incredible!  Gorgeous!  But the altitude was beating us up.  As we switchbacked up the hill, kicking steps into the snow with our crampons, I snorted down trail mix and chile-rubbed dried mango (thank you Trader Joe’s).  I hoped that the calories would turn into magical wings and fly me up the hill.  Eventually I gave up hope on the wings and started dreaming about trail mix cookies. Continue reading