Back to the Kitchen: Celebrate Labor Day

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

Labor Day, the first Monday in September,  is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. I certainly applaud that, but it also comes to me as bittersweet for personal reasons! The somewhat lazy days of summer are over and the structure and possibilities of the fall are emerging.  School is back in session, and although I suspect that it will be blazing hot through September,  I am looking forward to the fall harvest and cooler culinary adventures. For a Labor Day party,  burgers and hot dogs are the tradition ending with fresh sweet watermelon. Here are some new twists on the old favorites!

Quinoa is a delicately flavored grain that was a staple in the ancient Inca’s diet. One of the world’s true super foods, quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Ratatouille is a great way to use up the last of the summer vegetables. Fortunately,  my daughter and her friends can’t get enough of it. A watermelon and feta salad is a nice salty/ sweet combo and a more interesting way to present this fruit of Labor Day. So invite your friends and family and celebrate the official last day of summer!

Salmon Burgers with Ginger Lime Aioli

Norman Rockwell's portrait of Rosie the Rivertor on a lunch break graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

Norman Rockwell's portrait of Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of labor, graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

Juice and zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon Asian hot chili sauce

2 1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillets, chopped finely

4 scallions, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1-cup fresh breadcrumbs

2 eggs

Splash soy sauce

Fresh mint leaves

8 sesame buns, split and toasted

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and very thinly sliced

Combine 2 tablespoons of reserved aioli with egg, limejuice, zest and chili sauce; whisk to blend well. Add salmon, onion, mint, breadcrumbs and soy sauce. Handling salmon as little as possible to avoid compacting it mix well and form 8 patties.  Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on rack; cook about 3 minutes on each side. Top each bun bottom with cucumber strips, mint leaves, burger and aioli. Add bun tops and serve.

Ginger-Lime Aioli

1-cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons sour cream

5 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons ginger, minced

Juice and zest of 1 lime

Pinch Kosher salt

Combine aioli ingredients; mix well. Reserve 2 tablespoons for patties; cover and refrigerate remainder until serving.

Lentil Burgers with Sautéed Portabellas

1 cup dry lentils

2 1/2 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 small red onion, finely diced

2 carrots, grated

2 celery stalks, diced

Garlic to taste (I like lots)

1-bunch scallions

1-teaspoon kosher salt

2-teaspoon black pepper

2-teaspoon cayenne pepper

2-teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups rolled or steel oats

8 whole grain buns

In a medium saucepan simmer the lentils in water with the bay leaf until the lentil skins split easily, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile in a heavy saucepan heat up olive oil. When hot add the onions and garlic. Sautee for 3 minutes and add the rest of the vegetables and cook until tender. Add spices and let cool for 10 minutes. Process the oats in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Combine the vegetables with the lentils. Add lemon juice and oats. Shape the mixture into 8 patties. You can bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or grill over medium heat for 8 minutes per side. Serve with Sautéed Portabellas.

Sautéed Portabellas

4 Portabella Mushrooms, chopped

1/2-cup olive oil

1 onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 sprigs, thyme, removed from branch

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the portabellas and sauté until tender. Add the salt, pepper and thyme and serve with the lentil burgers.

Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa

4 cups vegetable stock

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 large bunch chives, chopped

1/2-cup young mung bean sprouts

1/2 cup raw pine nuts

1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil

1 lime or Meyer lemon juiced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch sea salt

Bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. While quinoa is cooking, chop tomatoes and chives. Mix dressing. Remove quinoa from heat. Allow to cool. Fluff quinoa and add vegetables and pine nuts. Gently mix dressing into quinoa mixture. Serve cold or warm. Serves 6.


1-pound tomatoes

2 peppers (red, yellow or green)

1 eggplant

1 onion

4 zucchini

5 garlic cloves

1/2 cup Olive oil


Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450.

Peel and cut the onions in slices. Wash and cut the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes in pieces. Wash and take all the seed out of the peppers. Cut them in matchstick size pieces. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put all ingredients in a big bowl; mix with oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Put vegetables in an oven safe dish. Cover with foil. Reduce oven to 350, bake for 40-50 minuets. Serve warm or cold.

Orzo Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes And Goat Cheese

8 ounces orzo

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

5-tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2-cup olive oil

1 1/4         pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 bunch green onions, sliced

1/2         cup sliced pitted oil-cured olives

1/4         cup thinly sliced fresh basil

3Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Saute 1/2 of the orzo in a little olive oil until golden brown. Cook all of the orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse under cold water; drain well. Transfer to medium bowl; cool.

Whisk vinegar and lemon juice in small bowl; gradually whisk in oil. Pour dressing over orzo. Mix in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

1 cold seedless watermelon

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1medium red onion cut in paper-thin slices

¼ cup Lucini Dark Cherry Balsamico or other good quality Balsamic

¼ cup mint leaves, chopped

Mint leaves for garnish

Using a melon ball scoop into a bowl. Gently toss the watermelon, onions. Feta with the balsamic. Sprinkle with mint and chill until ready to serve!

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog and She wrote for the Sun Community Newspapers.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • barbara

    these recipes are great. One suggestion..can we have recommendations to make these for those of us calorie conscious?

  • Jackie Houchin

    Finally! A recipe to use the eggplant someone gave me. This one sounds great. Maybe… I’ll try the salmon burgers too (never thought of using FRESH salmon before.

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