Back to the Kitchen: An Adventurous Menu for Labor Day

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It is once again time to put away your white pants and celebrate the end of the summer. The labor unions created Labor Day over 100 years ago. It is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. Traditionally most BBQs are burgers, hot dogs and watermelon affairs, but this menu is for the slightly more adventurous. Big, bold fun flavors and something for everyone.

Here are quick grilling tips to help this menu: Bring steaks and ribs to room temperature before grilling them and keep fish and chicken refrigerated. Let steaks, ribs and chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving and don’t flip food often or move it around (unless you are doing so to avoid flare-ups). The less you move things around the more evenly they will get cooked.

These recipes all serve 8 and can be doubled for a crowd. Take some time to enjoy the last official day of summer and treat your friends and family to some really great food.

Courtesy Canadian Living

Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions and Cranberries

4 tablespoons butter

2 large onions, sliced

1-tablespoon thyme, minced

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 cups crimini mushrooms sliced

1 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries or a combo of both

1 8-inch-diameter 32- to 36-ounce 
French Brie (in a box)

2 tsp chopped parsley (personal taste if desired)

French bread baguettes, sliced

Melt butter in heavy very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until just tender, about 6 minutes. Add minced thyme and mushrooms, cherries or cranberries and stir until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool. Preheat oven to 350. Unwrap Brie, reserving bottom of wooden box. Cut away only top rind of cheese, leaving rind on sides and bottom intact. Return Brie to box, rind side down. Place box on baking sheet. Top Brie evenly with onion mixture. Bake until cheese just melts, about 30 minutes. Transfer Brie in box to platter. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.Surround with baguette slices.

Cedar Planked Salmon

1 – 2 1/2 to 3 lb salmon filet rinsed and patted dry

5 cloves garlic

3-tablespoon olive oil

Rosemary sprig, chopped

Thyme sprig, chopped

1-teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 18″ cedar plank, soaked in water 2 hours

Make small slits on the side of the fish. Slice garlic into slivers, and press into these slits. Coat fish with oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. On a hot gas grill or over very hot charcoal briquettes heat the plank for 5 minutes each side. Place fish on plank and return to the grill. And cover. Close vents 1/2 way and don’t open for 15 minutes. Check for doneness in middle of filet—it should be pink and flaky. Serve immediately.

Karl’s Kansas City Ribs

My take on BBQ ribs is a bit different. My friend Karl introduced me to KC ribs and this is what evolved. I place a couple of slabs of baby backs in a baking dish and slather them with the rub. Then I slice some lemons and onions and place them over the top. I cover the dish with foil and  bake at 250 for about 6 hours. Then I brush the ribs with sauce and throw then on the grill or back in the oven for 20 minutes. Here is your sauce and rub.

Karl’s Kansas City Rub

1/2-cup brown sugar

1/4-cup paprika

1-tablespoon black pepper

1-tablespoon chili powder

1-tablespoon garlic powder

1-tablespoon onion powder

1-tablespoon salt

1-teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kansas City Barbeque Sauce

3 cups water

3/4-cup light corn syrup

1 cup tomato paste

1 cup vinegar

5 tablespoons molasses

6 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1-teaspoon pepper

1/2-teaspoon paprika

1/2-teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until mixture is thick. Cool then store in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight so that flavors can develop.

Grilled Chicken, Plantain and Pineapple Skewers

8 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

2 plantains, ripe, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1/2-cup pineapple juice

1/2-cup limejuice

2 tablespoons chopped oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2-cup canola oil

Pineapple Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

On eight 10-inch skewers, thread chicken, pineapple and plantains, alternating ingredients. Set skewers on a tray with sides or in a glass-baking dish. In small bowl, stir together pineapple juice, limejuice, oregano and garlic cloves. Pour pineapple juice mixture over skewers, turning to coat all sides thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours, turning skewers occasionally. Before cooking chicken, prepare pineapple sauce. Prepare grill. When coals are hot, lift skewers out of marinade and brush lightly with canola oil. Grill over medium-hot coals for about 20 minutes, turning often. Stir remaining marinade into sauce. Boil sauce over hot stove, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Serve skewers hot, passing Pineapple Dipping Sauce separately.

Pineapple Dipping Sauce:

In medium bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons vegetable oil; 1 large onion, minced; 1 (10-ounce) jar of pineapple fruit spread and remaining marinade. Boil as instructed before serving.

Grilled Artichokes

2 lemons

4 large artichokes, (3-3 1/2 pounds total)

1-tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare artichokes: Fill a stockpot with water; add the juice of 1 lemon. Trim leaves from the top of an artichoke. Remove the outer layer(s) of leaves from the stem end and snip all remaining spiky tips from the outer leaves. Trim an inch off the bottom of the stem and use a vegetable peeler to remove the fibrous outer layer. As each artichoke is prepared, drop it into the lemon water to prevent it from turning brown.

When all the artichokes are prepared, cover the pan and bring to a boil. Boil until the base of the stem can be pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the choke and first few inner layers in the center until the bottom is revealed. Brush each half with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the artichokes until tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter, squeeze half a lemon over them and garnish with the remaining lemon half cut into 4 wedges. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Grape and Blue Cheese Slaw

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

½ small head red cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, shredded

2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, mustard, cheese, and vinegars. Add the cabbages and carrots, and grapes. Stir until evenly coated. Chill until serving.

Orzo Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes And Feta

8 ounces orzo

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

½ cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2-cup olive oil

1-¼ 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

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 cup feta 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.

Potato and Green Bean salad

3 pounds new or red bliss potatoes

4 cups green beans, trimmed

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1-teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

3/4-cup balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups olive + to coat potatoes for roasting

2 shallots finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Prick the potatoes with the tines of a fork and arrange them on a baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. When cool enough to touch. Cut into quarters. Sautee Green beans, walnuts and red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a small bowl whisk together oil and balsamic with garlic and shallots in a serving bowl toss the potatoes with the green bean mixture. Pour dressing and gently toss thoroughly. Let stand a t room temp for one hour and toss again before serving.

Labor Day Salad

4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped

2 heads green leaf lettuce, chopped

2 heads red leaf lettuce, chopped

2 large avocados, chopped

2 cups black olives, sliced

1-cup pine nuts, toasted

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place dressing ingredients in shaker jar. Shake well. Prepare salad ingredients and toss with dressing. Serve immediately.

Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad

10 ears of corn, husk removed

4 avocados, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning

2 cups heirloom tomatoes, diced

1 small red onion, finely diced

1 cup feta, crumbled

2 cups English cucumber, diced

Brush corn with olive oil and grill. Let cool for a few moments and remove corn with sharp knife. Add to a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cilantro Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the above ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid. Shake really well. Taste and adjust seasoning and ratios of oil and vinegar, as you desire. When ready to serve salad, add the dressing and gently toss.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .





About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.