It’s not just the last weekend to wear white shoes. It’s not just the last weekend before the kids go back to school.
It’s our best — and maybe last if the weather turns evil on us — chance to relive holiday memories with a big bang backyard picnic. Here are my suggestions for making this Labour Day summer’s last hurrah.
On my vacation, I visited the birthplace of the piña colada — and I have the slightly-out-of-focus pictures in front of the Barrachina restaurant in San Juan to prove it. Doesn’t get more tropical than Puerto Rico in August, and I can’t think of a better cocktail to bring back the burn.
2 oz. white rum
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, with juice
1-1/2 cups crushed ice
Blend everything until smooth and serve, garnished with pineapple chunks, in two tall, cold cocktail glasses.
Grilled Summer Salad
This one screams out the season from the top of your barbecue. You can roast the vegetables in the oven if you prefer, but grilled is the way to go to make the most out of your last picnic. This makes enough to serve as a side dish to 6.
1 each small green and yellow zucchini
1 small Japanese eggplant — the small, lighter coloured one
1/2 each red and green bell pepper
1 small red onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
good pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped or torn fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. good olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
Quarter zucchinis, eggplant and endives lengthwise. Cut peppers into thick strips and onion into eighths. Toss with oil, arrange on grill and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Cook until starting to colour and soften. Remove and cool slightly then chop into coarse but not-too-big-to-fit-on-a-fork chunks. For the dressing, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard and honey. Toss with vegetables and parsley and top with Parmesan.
Grilled Pork Chops with Peach Whisky BBQ Sauce
While you’re barbecuing the veggies for the previous recipe, you’ll have enough grill space left for the peaches that make this sauce so incredible. If you aren’t turning on the gas today, you can always fry them. If you don’t want to fuss at all then substitute peach preserves, but if you do, leave out the molasses. Whatever you decide, you need soft, well-cooked fruit, and the more colour the better.
If you’re up early in the morning and your chops are nice and plump why not give brining a try? I’m including instructions but you don’t have to, of course. Simply rub the meat briskly with salt and pepper if you’d rather, but at a minimum bring it up to room temperature before grilling.
1/4 cup each salt and sugar
8 cups warm water
1 cup apple juice (optional)
1 tbsp. cracked black pepper
4 large, thick, bone-in pork chops
4 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled, halved and stones removed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (Use as little or as much as you like)
1 cup smoky bottled barbecue sauce (I like Bull’s Eye for chicken and ribs)
1/2 cup whisky or bourbon
2 tbsp. each molasses, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce
Stir salt and sugar into water until it dissolves completely, then refrigerate until cold. Stir in apple juice and pepper. Immerse pork chops and refrigerate about 4 hours. Remove chops; dry thoroughly with paper towels. Allow to warm up to room temperature. For the sauce, grill peaches or fry them in a little butter until golden brown and soft; cool. Fry onion in oil in a heavy pot until golden and tender. Add garlic and pepper flakes and continue to cook until you can smell the garlic and it starts to colour. Cool and put in a food processor or blender with remaining ingredients, including the peaches, and whiz until smooth. Return mixture to pot and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Grill or broil chops until brown on both sides and almost cooked. Slather on the sauce generously and cook another minute or so on each side. Remove from heat and allow to rest 10 minutes. Serve with remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
Lemon Cheesecake Meringue Sandwich Bites
Big name, huge taste. These are summery and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. This recipe makes about 12 sandwiches, so you won’t use a whole batch of lemon pie filling. I used good quality lemon curd out of a jar and it was great — judge yourself accordingly.
2 egg whites, not too cold
2/3 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla (the white kind if you have it)
1/2 cup lemon pie filling or bottled curd
1/2 cup softened cream cheese
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in salt. Add sugar gradually, beating until firm peaks form and mixture is glossy. Gently fold in lemon zest and vanilla. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet — go for about 24 rounds. Place in preheated 400 F oven and turn off the heat immediately. Leave in the oven at least 2 hours but up to overnight. Beat a little of the lemon pie filling or curd into cream cheese to soften it further, then beat in the rest. Stir in lemon juice and chill until ready to use. Spread lemon filling generously on the flat sides of half the cold meringues. Top with their best matches and serve immediately. Put any leftover lemon filling in the freezer and eat it like ice cream. Next time you’ll be tempted to skip the meringues.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.