Labor Day BBQ – Our menu

Oh hey!  It’s September.  All right, eh everybody?  Huh?  Let’s… hear it…?

It’s no secret that for a large portion of North America, this has been a summer so crappy that it is historic.  Here in our neck of the Southern Ontarian woods, the usual rainy-ness of early June just sort of extended itself through to late June… and July… and much of August, saving the few hot days for the week that I decided to take off in order to do some moderately heavy construction work.  I’m no solipsist, but I’m pretty sure that God did that specifically to piss me off.

So the only thing that one can do in the face of such a disappointing summer season is have the best time possible, against all logic and environment to the contrary.  Neither rain, nor already-plummeting temperature, nor fundamentally broken morale should stand in the way of at least one warm-weather party — regardless of whether it’s actually warm.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand, in other words; it’s time to celebrate Labor Day.

Now, Labor Day has a bunch of historical context in which — I’ll be honest with you, because we’re such good friends — I have zero interest.  I think it’s about worker politics celebrating the victory of the common laboring someone-something.  In my school years, it was the last weekend before I went back to the grind; in my university days, it signaled the end of my full-time summer work and the beginning of my daily commute to the campus; these days, it’s one last crack at a day off where the sun sets after 7 o’clock.

So for no other reason then to bundle up and send off one of the shittiest summers in known memory, we offer up the kind of menu that will fill you up so completely that — for a few choice moments — you won’t even remember days you didn’t even get to go out and play.

Salads

IMG_2697

Singapore Noodle Salad is a spicy, light and fresh pasta salad with an Asian twist.  While your hated social rivals (you know, whoever they are, just play along here) will be showing up to this weekend’s BBQ with their bland old rotini with Italian salad dressing on it, you’ll have something salty, spicy and savory to offer.

Plus it’ll save you like ten bucks compared to what it’d cost to buy it.  Is there any way to go wrong?

img_1805

And if pasta salad is too heavy, or you’d really like to blow minds, why not turn dessert into an appetizer?  A watermelon and serrano chili salad takes the simplest picnic fare and turns in into a slightly complex, refreshing opener that will confuse the kids and tickle the adults.

Just right amount of herbal flavor to cut the dessert-sweetness, but still plenty of smile-inducing watermelon fun, this is a salad that helps watermelon find a place outside of the standard fruit plate.

Meats

img_1335

Gosh, is it ever easy to just toss a slab of ground beef on the grill, slather some BBQ sauce on it and call it a day.  Everyone is generally happy, even the pickiest eater doesn’t have anything to complain about — assuming they aren’t vegetarian, but then they’d be avoiding the meaty grill anyway — and though nobody is thrilled, few are disappointed.

But is that really good enough?  Or would a little jaunt into the meadows be such a bad thing?  Tunisian Lamb Burgers are so simple to do, easy to cook and just as easy to enjoy — while establishing yours as the BBQ where interesting things happen.

And if your guests are suffering from a little novelty fatigue, then you might as well be fully-grounded in the basics:  no frozen patties for you, oh no.  Draw on the essentials, and make sure that if you’re doing basic BBQ, it’s with the perfect cheeseburger technique.

IMG_2820

For finger-foods, look no further than honey and jalapeno drumsticks, a sticky-spicy combination that adds personality to a cut of chicken that is perilously easy to mummify.

A little slow cooking on the grill, and that lovely coating caramelizes beautifully into a tasty crust that leaves just the appropriate amount of sauce on one’s fingertips — enough to discreetly lick off, without running embarrassingly down the inside of the shirt-sleeves.

Desserts

img_2337

When all is said and done, assuming your guests have not been rendered prone by the combination of beef, carbs and spices, there is still the matter of sweets.

Don’t feel like breaking a serious sweat while treating everyone to a sweetie?  Berrylicious summer puddings take whatever fruit you happen to have left from the garden, combining it with ingredients you’ll surely have in your cupboards, and pulling together a fast dessert to please the multitudes.

img_2599

For the more adult palettes, and with a little more prep time, drunken rhubarb strawberry jelly squares can be the order of the day.  What’s not to love?  I dare you to choose:

  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate
  • Jelly
  • Booze

Exactly!  There’s nothing here that fails to recommend a cool, colorful and grown-up dessert that will always impress.

Drink

And to round it all off, make the most summery drink that we have yet to engineer:

IMG_1980

The watermelon mint julep takes all the trendiness of muddled drinks, combines them with the earthy goodness of bourbon, and combines them with the sweet smile-inducing fun of watermelon.  Mix the freshness of mint and the natural vigor of melon, with all the color and personality they bring, to offer up a pitcher that’s unique and delightful.

Plus it’ll hit you like a two-by-four, so everyone will just have to eat all the great food you made for them.

Labor Day is one of the great universal opportunities to have a cookout, and this year it’s more important than ever to make the most of it — with most of this summer trying its best to outdo autumn for drizzly, crappy weather, it’s your solemn duty to make this last long weekend all that you can… and our job to help you.

Party hearty!