The Best Labor Day Menu for 2021

Toasting with friends on your cooking vacationLabor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Kids start back to school, the weather starts to turn, and fall is just around the corner.

Every year Labor Day is one of my favorite holidays. Sure, my garden by this point looks horrid, as I’ve invariably let the weeds take over. And my kids are usually as unruly as the garden at this point, and I am ready to send them back to school.

Enjoying traditional American fourth of July food with family and friendsBest Labor Day Recipes

A cookout is of course the norm, and frankly, we’ll spend most of this weekend cooking out. Burgers, kebabs, grilled fish tacos, even grilled pizza will be on the menu this weekend. But for a Labor Day to remember, try these great Labor Day recipes. Prepare them all or pick and choose–you won’t be disappointed!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Grilled Asparagus with Avocado Dip

Delicious Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Salt and PepperThis is a wonderful starter, and it’s easy to leave the prosciutto off if you want a vegetarian version. You’ve already got to prep the grill, so why not use it for the starter as well as the main course?

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Cook method: Grill

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed (about 16)
  • Olive oil to coat
  • Salt
  • Prosciutto, thinly sliced (1/2 slice per stalk)
  • 1 avocado, very ripe
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt

Preparation:A bunch of asparagus during a cooking class with The International Kitchen.

1. Prep the grill with high heat and the coals fairly close to the grate.
2. Prep the asparagus by trimming the tough stems. Rinse them, pat them dry, then toss them with a very little bit of salt and pepper. Wrap the stalks in a half slice of prosciutto.
3. Prep the dip. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the pulp, and smash in a bowl with the yogurt.
4. Add the lime juice and lime zest, and season to taste.
5. Grill the asparagus until it has color on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes.

Learn more about prosciutto!

Grilled Chicken Wings

A wonderful meal for a Labor Day cookout.I love grilled chicken wings. We tend to make them sauceless, with just a tasty spice rub. Here I use fill wings, not party wings. You can trim them or leave the tips on the end, as you prefer. The trick for these is to have a hot part of the grill and a cooler part as well.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35-45 minutes
Cook method: Grill

Ingredients:

Wonderful grilled wings.Preparation:

1. Prepare the spice rub. Place the chicken in a large bowl or dish and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Toss the chicken wings in a bit of oil to coat, then toss with the spice rub. Don’t be stingy!
3. Prep the grill to medium high heat, with the coals on half to 2/3s of the coal bed.
4. Grill the wings on the hot side of the grill, in batches if necessary, for 4-5 minutes per side, watching carefully. You want them to char a bit, but not to burn.
5. Move the wings to the cool side of the grill as they are charred. It’s OK at this point if they’re a bit crowded together.
6. Cover and finish cooking them. It should take about 25-35 minutes more, depending on how hot your grill is (try to keep it around 400 degrees). When they are 160 degrees, pull them, tent foil over them, and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Want a tasty alternative? Try this African grilled chicken.

Grilled Haloumi

Grilled haloumi, a tasty Greek cheese.My husband doesn’t eat meat, so I always have a vegetarian option for him. Grilled Greek Haloumi cheese is a perfect protein. It is satisfying and “meaty”!

Serves: 1 to 2
Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time: 5 minutes
Cook method: Grill or griddle

Enjoying ouzo with appetizers on a culinary tour of GreeceIngredients:

  • 1 block haloumi cheese, sliced in about 1/2 inch thickness
  • lemon for serving

Preparation:

1. Prep the grill (or heat the griddle) to medium high heat.
2. Grill the haloumi slices 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
3. Serve with a lemon garnish.

Roasted Potato Salad with Garlic and Herbs

Roasted potatoes, a delicious side dish for almost any meal, and easy to dress into a salad.I love any kind of potato salad, but this is the one my guests always request. It’s super tasty. The trick is to add the vinegar and garlic when the potatoes are still hot. It changes the way they absorb the flavors (or at least I think it does).

If you want to try something different, try these Peruvian potatoes: Huancayo-Style Potatoes.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Cook method: Roast

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs baby yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard
  • 2-3 Tbsp mayoinnaise
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, orgeano, and chives)

Preparation:

Fresh herbs from the garden during an Italy culinary vacation.1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean the potatoes and pat cry. Cut them in half, then toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Cook the potatoes in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 40 minutes, turning them with a spatula about halfway through.
4. In the meantime, mix the vinegar and garlic in one bowl, and the dijon and mayonnaise in a separate bowl.
4. Remove the. potatoes from the oven and toss immediately with the vinegar and garlic mixture. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then toss with the dijon and mayonnaise mixture. (If you want it creamier, you can add extra mayonnaise.)
5. Before serving, toss with the fresh herbs.

Sweet and Sour Arugula Salad

Closeup of a tasty arugula salad with pickled onions and walnuts.This is a super easy salad, but I always like to have something green on the plate, and the pickled onions give it a real brightness, and the pear a wonderful sweetness. You have to plan a bit in advance – the onions are super quick to make but they do need to cool to at least room temperature before adding them to the salad. You will only need a small portion of the onions, but can keep the rest in the fridge for several weeks and use in salads, sandwiches, tacos, and more! Make sure you roast the walnuts, it gives them a much better flavor.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 2 hours (10 minutes active time)
Cook time: 3 minutes
Cook method: Heat

Pickling onions is an easy process.Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch baby arugula
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (not in rings)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (whole, halves, or pieces)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or walnut oil
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 1 ripe pear, diced
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • salt & pepper

Delicious pickled red onions.Preparation:

1. First, prep the pickled onions. Heat the vinegar, honey, water, and 1 tsp of salt in a small sauce pan. Put the onion, very thinly sliced, in a pint mason jar. You can add herbs or other spices if you want: rosemary, thyme, allspice, bay leaf, coriander seed, red chili flakes, mustard seed, even cinnamon and cardamom!
2. Once the mixture has heated and the honey and salt have dissolved, carefully pour it over the onions. Put the lid on, give it a careful shake, then let it sit. Once it has cooled to room temperature, put the onions in the fridge to cool.
A tasty arugula salad with pickled onions and walnuts.3. In the meantime, roast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat for 2-5 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Set them aside to cool.
4. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, lemon juice, and a bit of salt and pepper.
5. Assemble the salad with the arugula on the bottom, then sprinkled with 1/4 cup of the onions, well drained, the walnuts, and pear slices. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss lightly. Top with a sprinkling of your favorite goat cheese and voilà!

Another great salad alternative is Diane Kochilas’s Arugula and Sweet Potato Salad.

Delicious, hot focaccia.Focaccia

If you’re the type of person who likes bread with your meal, focaccia is a great option. You can try two of our favorite focaccia recipes here:

Of course, if you really want to make good focaccia, travel with us to Italy on one of our Italy cooking vacations!

A refreshing mojito cocktail.Classic Mojitos

If you like a cocktail with your backyard cookout, you can’t go wrong with a classic mojito. It’s a chance to use some more of the mint in my garden before the end of the season, and it’s super refreshing and tasty. You can dress it up with fruits, cucumber, and the like, but why mess with perfection?

And if you’re a rum fan, check out our Flavors of Puerto Rico culinary tour!

Serves: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Cook method: Mix

Muddling the mint for a mojito.Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 6 sprigs of fresh leafy mint
  • 4 ounces white rum
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • Sparkling water
  • Lime garnish

Preparation:

1. Divide the sugar and mint in the bottom of 2 sturdy glasses.
2. With a cocktail muddler, mash the mint and sugar together. The more you mash, the stronger the mint flavor, but don’t muddle so much that the mint becomes pulp.
3. Add the lime juice and rum, half to each glass, and stir to combine.
4. Fill the glass with crushes ice and top with sparkling water. Give a quick stir to distribute the mint. Serve with a wedge of lime as garnish.

What are your plans for labor day? Are you going to cook out? Eat out? Share any favorite recipes or menu ideas in the comments!

By Peg Kern

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