Food:

8 Delicious Labor Day Recipes for an End-of-Summer Party

Words by Sacha Strebe.

And just like that… summer is almost over! But what a season it has been. Hopefully, you made time to loosen the reins and embrace the informality of the season with a revolving door of family and friends gathered around the table for impromptu family-style meals. That is what it’s all about! But fall isn’t here for a few weeks yet so it’s time to celebrate with an end-of-summer party that serves up dishes using the last of the season’s tasty ingredients before they’re all gone. These Labor Day recipes embrace the spontaneity and carefree nature we all crave this time of year. Our mantra? Keep it simple.

8 Delicious Labor Day Recipes for an End-of-Summer Party

“Whether you’re making grilled fish, summer squash salad, or a thick-cut rib-eye, charred to perfection, the approach is always the same: Keep it simple. This is food that only asks for a squeeze of lemon, a shower of herbs, and a dusting of sea salt.” 

— Athena Calderone

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Toasts With Blistered Grapes

Crostini is an infinitely adaptable way to whip up something delicious from whatever I happen to have on hand. In this case, I used blistered grapes from the farm stand, bright pink radishes courtesy of my CSA box, fresh ricotta from the Italian market, and some fragrant herbs snipped from my garden, but think of the recipes as a loose blueprint to use with any seasonal fruits and veggies. Once united with a perfectly golden and crunchy little toast, these seemingly disparate elements make for the yummiest of snacks. 

 

Zesty Tomato Salad

Nothing beats market-fresh tomatoes in the summertime. They’re bursting with brightness and a sun-ripened sweetness that can only be enjoyed this time of year. With so much natural flavor, color, and juiciness, I prefer to let the ingredients do the talking and not manipulate them too much. This recipe is a perfect example of that. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Your tastebuds will be surprised by its complexity of flavors that span the spectrum from spicy and sweet to zesty and tangy—all of my go-to tenets for a successful dish.   

FETA CUCUMBER SALAD WITH CORIANDER AND FENNEL SEEDS

This feta cucumber salad with coriander and fennel seeds is the simplest, the crunchiest, and the tastiest for springtime. It’s also a reminder that you do not have to make these laborious recipes for something to be super delicious.  

SEED-CRUSTED LAMB CHOPS WITH HERB MARINADE

If like me, you’ve been feeling the urge to take your cooking outside lately, then you’ll love my zesty, crunchy, and Mediterranean-inspired lamb chops for today’s EyeSwoon Unplugged. Who doesn’t love grilling weather? What I love most about summer-style cooking is how it urges us to freestyle. Rooted in the season’s carefree simplicity, I didn’t have a plan going into this recipe beyond experimenting with spices—fennel, coriander seeds, cumin, and sumac—along with seasonal herbs to deliver this herbaceous take on the classic chop. Enjoy!

ZUCCHINI AND FETA FRITTERS WITH AVOCADO CREAM

Fritters always remind me of my paternal grandmother. When I was a kid, she’d make a killer corn and zucchini version that I’d gobble up by the half dozen, slathering them with sour cream. These savory little pancakes build on her legacy, with a few adjustments. For one, I’ve traded sour cream for a citrusy avocado dipping sauce. It’s ridiculously smooth—almost like cake frosting—and just tart enough to cut through the richness of the fried veg. The trick to extra-crisp patties is to remove as much moisture as possible from the grated zucchini before cooking.

CHARRED EGGPLANT WITH ZA’ATAR AND YOGURT-TAHINI

Eggplant on the grill is a favorite in our household. Its firm skin protects its creamy interior but practically melts away in the heat of the fire. These veggies absorb just about anything they come in contact with, making them a great vehicle for a variety of flavors. Here za’atar, a thyme- and sesame-based Middle Eastern spice blend, lends the vegetable both tangy and aromatic notes. The yogurt-tahini sauce, meanwhile, provides deeply nutty and cooling accents. Finally, sumac, a lemony herb that’s also a mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine, brightens the dish with a hit of acid. And if you feel like switching things up—or have a glut of squash in your garden—this recipe can also be prepared with zucchini in place of eggplant.

SMOKY AND SPICY PORK RIBS

Sticky fingers, tender meat sucked off the bone, and a messy face to boot—bring it on, summer! I love the primal act of sinking my teeth into a meaty pile of ribs, just off the grill. But while I’ve always craved a finger-lickin’ rack of baby backs, I didn’t make them at home very often until I developed this complex, smoky-spicy sauce. Now I’m absurdly addicted.

RASPBERRY LIME THYME CROSTATA

What I love so much about this dessert (apart from the fact I can make it any time of the year) is that it’s somewhat foolproof. A crostata or a galette is essentially a rustic tart which means that once you put your ingredients and your fruit on the inside, you can fold over your dough in any which you want and it still comes out looking beautiful—it’s meant to look rustic in its form. The dough for this recipe is also incredibly versatile and can be used for pies! It’s so delicious, I promise you’ll be making this one for every gathering. 

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