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We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: Turn your Labor Day leftovers into an acceptable meal.
Come tomorrow evening, Labor Day will have come and gone, and all you'll be left with is a case of sub-par beer, a tub of mayonnaise, stale hamburger buns, a semi-warm grill, and a sinking feeling in your stomach that, unless you live in the oasis that is southern California, snow will start falling tomorrow. Bundle up, kids.
But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. While the air's still balmy and chlorine-scented, turn the ingredients from your Labor Day shenanigans into an acceptable dinner. Make mayonnaise into a meal by using it to marinate vegetables and bread (hellooo, leftover buns). Mask the wateriness of cheap beer by adding tomato juice and several dashes of Tabasco.
Here's a dinner that proves you can still salvage summer, at least for another night.
3 limes, divided
One 6-ounce can tomato juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
Two 12-ounce bottles or cans of beer (ideally Modelo)
1 large bunch broccoli rabe
3 lemons, divided
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 to 3 mixed summer squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Fresh basil and/or mint
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted, chopped almonds
You probably have mayonnaise, olive oil, garlic, and cumin seed in your kitchen. If not, you should. Add those to the list.
1. Cut 4 lime wedges and use them to rub the rims of four tall glasses. Next, coat with celery salt. Combine the tomato juice with the juice of the remaining two limes, 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco and mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste.
2. Add a handful of ice to your glass and pour in a quarter of the tomato juice mixture. Top it with half a bottle of beer, garnish with a lime wedge, and then keep the drink by your side as you make dinner.
3. Prepare the broccoli rabe: Remove the thick, tough lower ends of the stalks and split any stalks that are more than 1/2 inch thick.
4. Make the mayonnaise marinade: Whisk 1 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 cup olive oil and the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Mix in 2 cloves of garlic mashed into a paste, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of cumin seed. Finally, add the Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika. Mix until smooth and emulsified.
5. Cut the summer squash into 1/2 inch-thick rounds and add them to the mayonnaise marinade. Rinse the broccoli rabe and add it to the bowl without drying, as the water clinging to the leaves will thin the marinade and gently steam the stalks as they grill.
6. As the vegetables marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, watch an episode of Seinfeld or 30 Rock while nursing your michelada. Stir the vegetables during commercial breaks.
7. Turn the burners on your gas grill to medium, or prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals. Brush the grilling rack with olive oil. Arrange the squash rounds evenly across the grill grate and cooking for a few minutes on each side, until tender and blistered. Remove the squash, then add the broccoli rabe. Arrange in one layer on the grill until the stalks are tender. You can spray or drizzle a few drops of water on them if they’re charring but not softening. Remove the broccoli from the grill and place it on a platter or sheet pan to cool.
8. Grill the bread by brushing both sides of each slice with olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then grill for a few minutes on both sides until the bread is charred in spots but still soft in the middle. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
9. Assemble the salad by the placing the bread cubes, grilled broccoli rabe, and summer squash on a large platter. Garnish with toasted nuts, a handful of torn basil and mint, and a drizzle of olive oil and juice from the last lemon.
10. Make micheladas for the other diners -- fill glasses with ice, pour in the tomato juice mixture, top off with beer, and garnish with lime -- and then sit down for dinner.
Photos by James Ransom