Tag Archives: Summer Recipes

Labor Day Recipes with a Bit o’ Sass

Each year, I wait for the first morning I have a sense that Fall is right around the corner, teasing me.  The humidity is gone, skies are clear and blue, and there’s a gentle breeze. One cruel morning this week hinted of just that, but it was gone before I knew it.  A long Labor Day weekend lies ahead, and hot sunny days perfect for a day at the beach or barbeque are what most long for.  But this last gasp of summer brings memories of school for me.  A rest from all the shopping for clothes and supplies, from setting up yet another classroom, attending meetings to prepare for the new year, and seemingly endless lesson plans that waited to be written.  I always looked forward to Labor Day weekend because I could leave all the business of the weeks preceding for a day or two to think about food, family, and relaxation.

Labor Day weekend also represents something else, though.  It often coincides with my birthday, and this year  the holiday falls on the same day of the week I was born — Monday.  Pretty appropriate, don’t you think?  I’m sure my mother did because I was her first born.  I’m thinking about making myself a cheesecake like my mother always did, but in the meantime, thinking about great food to share for the holiday weekend in general is more in order.  So I’ve decided to organize the recipes I’d love to sample here instead of tagging cookbooks and magazines, or making a list in my notebook like I normally do.  It’s a list of Labor Day Recipes with a Bit o’ Sass — because that’s what I’m usually in the mood for.

Enjoy and by all means, share what you think would be a great addition to this list by adding a link in the comments.  Party on!

Oh, and you might think the recipes I’ve included from my own archives in this list are a bit on the shi-shi side of things, but they really aren’t all that.

Okay, so I’m from California.

Does it count that I’m a transplanted “Zonie” and childhood Navy Brat?

Read on, dear friend.  Read on, because I’ve included other great recipes from foodies whom I greatly admire — and I do think they’re all that.

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Mixed Berry Shortcakes with Lemon Mascarpone Cream

I suppose you could convince me there is a dessert that typifies summer more than shortcake, and you might be able to string me along for a while before I came to my senses to explain delicately that, at least to me,  not much else can compete.

My shortcake memories go back years, but they always begin the same:  with a biscuit.  Not a slice of angel food cake, or pound cake.  A lowly biscuit.  One that, if you’re me,  would normally be found on a plate filled with beans, rice, and coleslaw.  That kind of biscuit.  The one that not much else can compare to when it comes to soaking up juice and binding everything together, whether it’s dessert or not.

Sure, I’ve tried a variety of recipes, combinations of flavors and ingredients, but in the end I’m only truly satisfied with that slightly salty bite of biscuit and the tart sweetness of fresh berries tempered by the richness of cream.  It’s fabulous.

Recently, my husband surprised me with Thomas Keller’s latest book, ad hoc at home.  He’d heard that the man himself would be visiting a local Williams-Sonoma so decided to wait on his lunch hour in a rather lengthy line to get Keller’s signature for me.  Not only was I touched by the gesture, I couldn’t wait to dig into the recipes.

You know what it’s like to get a new cookbook.  You leaf through the pages, savoring each possibility, wondering what might measure up to your expectations without killing yourself on the first attempt:  buttermilk fried chicken…rubbed and glazed pork spareribs…iceberg lettuce slices…No, it was the buttermilk biscuits that got my attention first.  I have to admit I did go back to the iceberg lettuce slices (you have to try his Blue Cheese Dressing), but the biscuits are what I first settled down to make knowing instantly they were destined for berry shortcakes.

Think about it.  They’re perfect for the picnic of all summer picnics — July 4th.  You make them the day before, cool them completely before sealing their crispy freshness away so you can split them and then dollop on some cream and berries that have had a chance to sit for a while to develop a lovely, syrupy juice.

There is an art to this if you want to take some time with it, and if you’d like to consider another ingredient you may never have tried before which is perfect with berries, try mascarpone.  I’m partial to mascarpone, so when I saw that Keller included it in a recipe for peaches and cream, I had to try it giving it my own spin, of course.

If you’re thinking that it may not travel well, think again.  With a few recycled jars filled and kept in an ice chest, you’ll be able to turn out the perfect summer dessert for your July 4th holiday, courtesy of inspiration from Thomas Keller, of course.

133/365:  Autograph

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Summer in a Pie: Very Berry!

The local weather widget  on my Mac’s dashboard says it’s 90 degrees outside right now, but I don’t believe it.  Although it does seem to be quite a bit warmer than what the weather guy reported this morning, it’s still not that hot.  I’ll believe 80.  Maybe.  I can feel a nice breeze — refreshingly cool, but the sun is scorching!  No complaints, however.  None at all.  Actually I’m sort of amazed that when summer officially began a couple of days ago with the ending of school, the ever-present June Gloom we’re accustomed to has disappeared.

That means tonight will be perfect for an outside dinner, after I scrape the hard water deposits off the glass on the patio table.  So much for Martha living here, right?  I’ll light some little votive candles, throw a couple of logs in the chiminea, and hope the clouds don’t return so we can enjoy what promises to be a very warm evening.

This first truly summery night deserves an after dinner treat that I’ve had my eye on since the June issue of Gourmet surfaced in my mail stack.  I couldn’t exactly get past the full page glossy photo and the homey looking aspect of the strawberry pie.  Was that jello?  Oh. My.  It’s definitely what my idea of summer in a pie would be.  Very berry!

And what a perfect way to celebrate the Strawberry Moon Festival, hosted by Cooking in Cleveland, a site that features “homecooking with seasonal, locally grown produce.”

Is it cheating that I added blueberries?  I can’t resist the way they look with strawberries.  Okay, and their crunch is quite lovely, too.

I’ll let you know how the dinner goes.

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Great Meal for Summer Weather: Quinoa with Grilled Pork & Garlic Lime Vinaigrette

I know it’s sweltering across the country right now, and even though we’re enjoying a balmy 73 degrees right now (sorry, I can’t resist…I know.  It’s not very nice.  But I can’t stand the heat.  I melt in the heat.  I’m not comfortable at any temperature above 83.5 degrees.  It’s the only real think I truly like about where I live, since we don’t get snow, or pretty trees with colored leaves, or…)  Ahem.

As I was saying, it’s always great to have a few recipes around that you can put together semi-painlessly and with little or no cooking.  Or that can be made a bit ahead so the kitchen isn’t heating up when you least want it to.

Are you curious yet?  So no baking.  And no sweets.  I’m trying to cure a few of you of that.  You know…diversification.  Whatever. 

The July 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine has many, many lovely recipes in it.  I’m trying to break my habit of getting the magazine in the mail since it’s available on epicurious, I’ve grown to really enjoy reading it.  It will most likely be the only magazine I hang on to from my ‘zine addiction.  *sigh*  I just try and think of all the trees I’m helping to save.

Anyway, Gourmet has a section called "Gourmet Every Day:  Quick Kitchen."  I’m not one to seek out "quick" meals, because for me, that’s usually just throwing a few things together.  What’s the point of a recipe.  Also, a few times, the ones I’ve tried haven’t been all that great.  However…I’ve made the "Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Lime Sauce" twice in the last month (a TOTAL record for me) and recently tried the "Black-Bean and Tomato Quinoa" to go with the pork.  Both recipes are featured in the "Quick Kitchen" section of the issue, and they were quickly tagged to be added to our recent vacation fare.  YUM.  Sorry the photos are few and a bit fuzzy.  I’m completely challenged when there are lots of people around, cooking, and trying to take photos.  It’s nerve wracking.  Plus, a bit strange, and I already give everyone enough to talk about.

This is a perfect meal to make when you are wanting to wow both meat eaters and vegetarians.  It’s fabulous.  I’ve noted my variations below each recipe.  The recipes are posted exactly as written and can be located at epicurious dot com.

Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Lime Sauce

The vinaigrette is light, and would be excellent on chicken, shrimp, or a plain salad.

Serves 4


1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/3 c. olive oil
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
6 (12/-inch-thick) boneless pork chops


  1. Whisk together lime juice, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp. salt, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking well.  Whisk in cilantro.
  2. Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat.  Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.  Oil grill rack, then grill pork chops, covered, turning over once, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total.
  3. Serve drizzled with some vinaigrette, and with remainder on the side.

*If you aren’t able to grill outdoors, chops can be cooked in a hot lightly oiled large (2-burner) ridged grill pan over moderately high heat.


The first time I made these (no photos from that night — just the second time I made the chops), the chops were quite thick (1-1/2 inch) and were amazing.  The pork was lean, nicely grilled, and very moist.  The flavor was excellent.

I brushed on a small amount of the vinaigrette toward the end of the cooking time on both sides of the chops, then drizzled more over all before serving.

I also substituted basil for the cilantro the first time, because that’s what I had.  It was very good and I can’t say whether I enjoy the cilantro more, because each has its own flavor.

I added green onions or scallions to the vinaigrette.

I used two very large cloves of garlic for 3 chops.  We love garlic, and no, we don’t think this overpowers the taste. 

Black-Bean and Tomato Quinoa

If you haven’t tried quinoa (keen-wah), you should consider it.  It’s a
pleasant tasting grain that is very high in protein.  It cooks up much
the way pasta does, and has a very mild nutty flavor.

Serves 4


2 tsp. grated lime zest
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 T vegetable oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. quinoa
1 (14-15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 med. tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter oil, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.
  3. Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salter water (1 T salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve).
  4. Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat and remove lid.  Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.
  6. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed.
  7. Stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.


I doubled this recipe since we were feeding about 10 and we had some left over for lunch the next day.

I used Trader Joe’s "Harvest Grains Blend" which is a mix of Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans, and Red Quinoa.  I had it at home and wanted to try it, so this recipe seemed perfect.

Don’t get hung up on the steaming part.  Save some of the liquid drained from the quinoa and use that to steam it after you place the sieve over it.  I used a clean terry kitchen towel and tucked in the edges.  Then I set the lid on the whole contraption.  Just be careful not to set the towel on fire.  No, I didn’t set the towel on fire.  Sheesh!

The rest is food history.  I totally believe this is another recipe that could easily mix well with grilled veggies.  YUM.  Or, grill the limes and then squeeze the juice.  Seriously YUM.

To finish it off, you need one deck or patio, an umbrella, a cool glass of chardonnay (okay, so what do I know about wine other than I like to drink it?), an evening, and great friends.  Ahhhhhhhh…….