Savoring that last breath of summer

Have you got plans for Labor Day weekend? We're planning to enjoy every last drop of summer, with a feast featuring a little something something on the grill, colorful super-fresh salads, and the last of this season's oh-so-glorious peaches. Recipes all right here. Join me?

I remember Labor Day weekend as the last swim before the community pool closed. Getting ready for school, buying school supplies. New school shoes and clothes. The Labor Day barbeque. The last breath of summer, before you had to get back down to business. 

Even now as an adult, I can feel things are calmer and quieter in August, during the dead of summer, when people are taking a vacation or staycation. Labor Day is high tide, then it’s back to full throttle, nose to the grindstone, and it doesn’t matter if it’s still 102 degrees. We’re back on!

Culinary-wise, it’s the last of the picnic trio (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day). Our traditions aren’t as elaborate on Labor Day as for the others, but it’s fun to savor and celebrate the swan song of the season, especially a season with such a glorious harvest of fruits and vegetables.

Here’s what I like to serve for our Labor Day barbeque (with a delish vegetarian option).

Every once in a while a girl has to do what a girl has to do. Many years ago, I was working fourteen hours a day as a cook in a vegetarian restaurant in northern California. Let’s just say the owner was a tad obsessed with keeping his restaurant “pure.” I swear that if you had
a tuna fish sandwich in your car, an alarm would go off in his office. 

Occasionally I got a hankering for something that required a field trip. There weren’t many choices in town, but one place we all escaped to had awesome mini burgers made with grass-fed beef. A few bites was all it took to satisfy my cravings, and back I could go to the land of milk and honey (and tofu, polenta, and brown rice). In this recipe, I opted for dark meat turkey because it’s so flavorful, and because the tryptophan in turkey is a natural stress buster—and isn’t that what indulging a yen is all about? Serve these with pita pockets or buns. Yum yum.

These are not nondescript veggie burgers! These are stars in their own right, similar to Middle Eastern falafel, sensationally popular at every event I’ve ever served them at. Nutritious and delicious, gently pan-seared or baked, these burgers are bountiful bites of health. 

Classic slaws usually aren’t much to get excited about. Between their homely appearance and goopy consistency, they tend to resemble Spackle. Not the case here! Between the carrots, cranberries, apples, and mint, there’s enough visual zing, taste, and contrast to delight all the senses—crispy and chewy, tart and sweet, fruits and veggies—all vying for attention in one beautiful package. 

I owe this one to my mom, who taught me all about peaches, in her own inimitable style. Didn’t matter what peach dish she was making—peach kuchen, peach cake, peach you-name-it—Mom had a scrumptious way with peaches. These peaches are simple and absolutely intoxicating; take peaches at the height of their season and toss them with cinnamon, ginger, and just a spritz of lemon juice. You’ll find yourself making excuses to be in the kitchen while these goodies roast, cause they just smell soooooo good. Thanks, Mom!