Happy Labor Day to all. This is the official closing of summer 2019. The date of the last barbecue of summer in the northern states. Here in New Orleans, we keep on going with the outdoor grill until it just gets too cold and rainy for it to make sense.
My fondest memory of Labor Day is 1960 or thereabouts. It was a picnic with nine or ten of my extended family - -including several aunts and uncles and cousins gathered at the lakefront, near the London Avenue Canal. We all went swimming in Lake Pontchartrain, descending into the water down the steps of the seawall. The water was clear enough that we could see crabs walking on the bottom.
The adults sat around drinking Falstaff Beer from cans. On one of those cheap round barbecue pits everybody had back then, they cooked hot dogs, chicken, and hamburgers. We all had so much fun that when we packed up to go home my mother said, “I can’t wait to do this next year.” But we never did that again, and in a way, I’m glad. Another Labor Day picnic couldn’t possibly be better than that one.
If you are doing some of your own grilling today, here’s a recipe or two. It’s considerably updated from 1960.
This is a Mary Ann recipe, so that means short and sweet. At the time of the aforementioned Labor Day picnic, no one ever ate salmon, at least anyone I knew. Now it is so commonplace it’s hard to imagine that time.
I pound slab of salmon
2 T Creole Seasoning
⅓ cup Olive oil
Get the grill ready for smoking or grilling. It should be 300 degrees.
Rinse the salmon
Combine the two tablespoons of Creole Seasoning and the olive oil into a paste.
Liberally coat the fish all over with the paste. Using indirect heat, place it skin up on the grill, so those fish oils will seep in. Let this cook ten minutes and turn, careful to not let the fish shred. If there is any remaining paste, keep brushing till it’s gone. Or you can just keep the fish moist with plain olive oil brushing. If looks are important, this flipping step is not necessary. The fish will cook fine on the grill skin down.
It’s done when it is pink inside. Or 145 degrees, plus whatever you personally need for doneness.
Note: This recipe also works well with chicken breasts, though the grill should be hotter. Use direct heat to get a nice crust. And make sure you keep brushing olive oil with a little lemon throughout to keep it moist. 160-165 is the cooked temp. Resist the urge to overcook. Let stand for a bit before slicing crosswise.
And forget the 1960s version of hot dogs. Get an assortment of sausages to grill.
Black Bean And Corn Salad
Fish and beans are a less obvious duo than meatballs and spaghetti, but they are just as compatible,, and just as delicious. And when done with a tangy dressing like this one, really refreshing.
This is another Mary Ann favorite, from a book called “Summertime Treats” by Sara Perry, who got it from fitness expert Joe Piscatella.
For the dressing:
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
2 cups canned black beans rinsed well and drained
2 cups fresh cooked and cooled corn or canned corn kernels
1 small red bell pepper seeded and chopped
2 small jalapeno chiles seeded and finely minced
1 small purple onion finely chopped
I cup of grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
Combine all the salad ingredients.
Combine all the dressing ingredients.
Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly, making sure all ingredients are coated.
My own Coleslaw from my book
1 head of green cabbage finely shredded or chopped
1 head red cabbage finely shredded or chopped
2 cups green onions, chopped
1 lb carrots grated
1 quart of mayonnaise
1 3/4 cups cider vinegar
2 T yellow mustard
¼ cup of sugar
2 T celery seed
1 ½ tsp dried dill
¼ tsp dried tarragon
¼ tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp Tabasco green pepper sauce
1 cup buttermilk
Combine all ingredients for the dressing.
Combine all ingredients for the salad.
Pour dressing over salad and gently combine.
The weather seems hotter than that Labor Day picnic in 1960. You can’t see crabs at the bottom of the lake. Or swim there, really. But there is still a great Labor Day grill waiting for you. Enjoy!