Chunky grilled vegetables jazz up the traditional burger. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
September 1, 2010 11:28:00 AM
Here comes Labor Day. But instead of mourning the passing of summer, segue smoothly into the season of touchdowns, turkeys and evergreens with a lively outdoor party that celebrates the last 20 or so summer days still officially left.
What do you have planned? If you're like Steven Stanley of Columbus, "burning meat all day" -- ribs, pork chops, hot dogs for the kids and "whatever else our friends bring to cook." Steven, his wife, Karen, and sons Aiden, 7, and Logan, 4, intend to make it festive.
"Ever since moving to this area from the coast, Labor Day has always been about spending time with friends, since they have become our family away from 'home,'" said Karen.
For Ronnie and Carla Guyton, Labor Day means a gathering of about 20 or so family members at Carla's father's home in Winona. "We have ribs, slow cooked on the grill, and barbecued shrimp. Everyone brings a side dish to go with it," shared Carla, of Columbus.
Light it up
Like the Stanleys and Guytons, plenty of weekend grillmasters will be firing up during the weekend ahead -- for Labor Day fun, as well as Bulldog tailgating in Starkville Saturday for the season opener against Memphis, or maybe at The Grove in Oxford as the Rebels take on Jacksonville State.
Looking for a twist? How about jazzing up the standby burger with sizzling chunky grilled vegetables? Zucchini, peppers and eggplant kissed by garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar raise the bar. The recipe from snackpicks.com is included today.
A platter filled with juicy, crunchy grilled wings with honey chipotle glaze could star at your cookout. Be aware: the kicky glaze devised by Joshua Bousel on seriouseats.com packs a little heat.
"When I first concocted this sauce and took a spoonful, it forced a hiccup reaction that I've only encountered a few times when eating peppers so spicy, they should only be consumed on a double dog dare," Bousel blogs. He discovered, however, that the sauce caramelized and charred slightly over the heat of the coals, bringing out the sweetness of the honey and mellowing the heat. "What starts as a sweet crisp bite into a wing ends up leaving a slight smoky burn in the back of your mouth, a taste transformation I really enjoy."
While the grill makes its magic, treat guests to some welcoming starters. Maybe begin with a new slant on a cool drink -- peach lemonade. The key to this one is in the syrup. Dissolving the sugar insures none of it will be wasted on the bottom of the pitcher. For a yummy variation, add a few fresh raspberries. They'll tint your lemonade a pretty pink.
Bacon-wrapped mushrooms on skewers are grill-friendly appetizers. And for a salad, a tomato/watermelon salad topped with crunchy cereal flakes for texture takes your menu out of the box. Recipes for the mushrooms and salad are included today.
Another option with watermelon is a refreshing cucumber/watermelon salad, an oh-so-delicious way to experience sweet and tangy at the same time. The simple recipe at allrecipes.com calls for gently tossing 6 cups of cubed seeded watermelon, 4 cups of cubed English cucumber, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of white sugar (optional) together in a large bowl. Drizzle with a 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and toss one more time before serving.
Where the heart is
Whether your Labor Day weekend is spent at home, on the patio, or out-and-about -- like Wythe and Gina Rhett at their Smith Lake house -- mealtimes bring everyone together.
"We'll have our family there and our three children, and they, of course, will bring friends for the weekend," said Gina. "We'll make homemade waffles in the morning, with fresh strawberries, and cook hamburgers on the grill in the afternoon. ... It's a wonderful getaway, to spend time together with family and friends until getting back to the real world."
Starkville's Tasha Hill looks forward to cooking out and catching up on summer doings, but reminds us what it's all about. "With the strong aroma of barbecue in the air, no one can forget the real reason why we've all gathered together -- a loving family, good friends and great food, all made with a 'labor of love!'"
HONEY CHIPOTLE WINGS
3 pounds chicken wings (18 wings), cut up
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
For the glaze:
Three chipotles in adobo
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
n Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels. Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with baking powder, chili powder and salt and toss to evenly coat.
n Arrange wings in a single layer on wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for at least eight hours.
n Place all glaze ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
n Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. When charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the grilling grate, keeping the other side empty.
n Place the wings skin side up over the cool side of the grill, cover and cook until skins are crisp and starting to brown, about 30-40 minutes.
n In the last 10 minutes of cooking, brush the glaze over the wings. Brush again and move to the hot side of the grill until they just begin to char, about one to three minutes.
n Remove to a plate, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
BURGERS WITH GRILLED
Prep time: 20 minutes
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper
One small zucchini, halved lengthwise
One baby eggplant or Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise
n In a small saucepan, cook vinegar over low heat about five minutes, or until reduced to 2 tablespoons and syrupy. Set aside.
n In a small bowl, stir together olive oil and garlic. Brush bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant with olive oil mixture.
n Grill peppers and zucchini over medium heat for five minutes, turning occasionally. Add burgers and eggplant to the grill. Grill for four to six minutes more, or until burgers are heated through and vegetables are tender, turning occasionally. Remove from grill. Cut vegetables into 3/4 to 1-inch pieces.
n To serve, spoon veggies on burgers and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Prep time: 15 minutes
3 cups cut-up watermelon, seeds removed
One medium yellow, orange or red ripe tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (or 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 cups torn fresh spinach or torn romaine lettuce
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/4 cup cereal flakes of choice
n In a large bowl, toss together watermelon, tomato and mint. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Gently toss to combine.
n On six small serving plates, arrange spinach. Top with watermelon mixture. Sprinkle with cereal and cheese.
1 pound bacon, cut in half
1 pound crimini mushrooms, scrubbed and stems removed
Freshly ground black pepper
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior
n Place mushrooms in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil until all mushrooms are well coated, about 3-4 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
n Wrap each mushroom in 1/2 slice of bacon and thread onto skewers, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between the mushrooms.
n Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate.
n Grill the mushroom skewers until bacon is cooked and crisp on all sides, moving the skewer
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.