Of all the summer holidays, Labor Day is by far the most bittersweet. It’s the last hurrah for the grill and a final farewell to warm-weather produce. When planning your cookout or picnic menu, choose dishes that accommodate the seasonal shift with hearty spins on standard summer fare. Start by swapping light and zesty glazes for bold and aromatic marinades. Instead of gazpacho, try creamy chowder loaded with seasonal ingredients. For dessert, stick to summer berries — but go beyond a simple fruit cup or parfait in favor of something just as rich as it is refreshing. Sound like a challenge? It’s really quite simple. Bid summer a final adieu with these six still-in-season recipes that anticipate the arrival of cooler weather.
Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa (pictured at top)
Get a final grilled meal in before it’s time to close up shop until next year. Alex Guarnaschelli celebrates the fleeting intersection of summer and fall with this recipe for juicy grilled chicken and spicy harissa. The harissa calls for fresh red bell peppers, which are currently at their peak, blended together with rich and aromatic spices that typify comforting fall meals. For the juiciest results possible, give the chicken ample time to marinate in the spicy yogurt mixture.
Honeydew and Arugula Salad
While honeydew is categorized as a winter melon, it’s actually at its tasty peak during the summer months. Here, the sweetness of the honeydew complements the spicy quality of arugula for a refreshing summer salad that’s cooling on the palate.
Grilled Corn Salsa
When combined, grilled corn and tomatoes make a smoky-sweet medley. Served alongside blue or yellow corn chips, this chunky salsa makes the perfect snack for grazing before the main course is ready — but it works just as well as a seasonal side salad to be served with dinner.
Low-Country Shrimp Chowder
Grilled kebabs are the more common way to experience shrimp at a summer party, but when you add shrimp to rich and hearty chowder, you’ve got the perfect late-summer meal. Food Network Kitchen assembles this comforting soup — creamy but still healthy (thanks to reduced-fat milk) — using rice, celery and in-season corn in addition to plump cooked shrimp.
Black and Blue Cheesecake Tart
Use tart berries to top silky cheesecake; it’s an excellent way to give summer a final farewell while still welcoming cool fall weather. The blueberries and blackberries provide one last bittersweet taste of summer, while the smooth and velvety cheesecake base anticipates the decadent holiday desserts to come. And, when you use reduced-fat cream cheese, you can experience both worlds for just 280 calories per slice.
Zucchini season begins in June and peaks in late August, so Labor Day is your last opportunity to showcase the firm summer squash in its prime. Ellie Krieger’s baked zucchini crisps will take your snack spread to the next level. Unlike store-bought potato chips, these crisps are light and crunchy but not greasy.
For more Labor Day ideas, check out these recipes from our friends:
The Lemon Bowl: Lemon Garlic Chicken Kabobs
Bacon and Souffle: Roasted Shrimp Orzo
The Hungry Traveler: Ginger Vanilla Fruit Salad
Homemade Delish: Festive Champagne Punch
Dishin & Dishes: Savory Tomato, Roasted Garlic and Mozzarella Tart
Creative Culinary: Zucchini and Cream Cheese Casserole
TasteBook: Apple-Pecan Chicken Salad
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Batter Fried Pepper with Tzatziki Sauce
Domesticate Me: Lobster Avocado Toast
Taste with the Eyes: “Margarita” Salmon Burger with Tequila, Lime, and Hatch Chiles
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Grilled Shrimp & Peaches with Arugula Pesto
Red or Green: Spicy Greek Chickpea Spread
The Heritage Cook: Smoked Chicken Salad (Gluten-Free)
The Mom 100: Yogurt Berry Pops
FN Dish: The Last Hurrah: Grill Absolutely Everything on Labor Day