Whether you've scouted out a camping spot in the woods or will be bumping around at home, these recipes will make the long weekend better, more festive, more memorable, and therefore make it last, maybe, forever.
Don't just grill a burger; stuff it with bacon and chorizo and smear romesco all over it. Eat pimento cheese. And barbecue chicken with two types of mayo. Stand around drinking boozy grasshopper shakes and eating little salt-crusted potatoes and making a mess of yourself.
Let's go all out for Labor Day. Here are 33 ways to do it.
Think you know how to boil potatoes? Think again. Instead of a big pot, this recipe turns to a wide pan, just enough water to cover, and a hefty amount of salt. The result? Your new favorite app or side dish.
Sure, making hummus with just-cooked, not canned, chickpeas takes more time, but this method cuts that usual cook time (1 1/2 to 2 hours) down to 20 to 40 minutes. Yep.
A creamy, refreshing, salty grasshopper shake, here to make grasshopper shakes cool again. Mint sprig on top: not optional.
When grated and cooked down, down, down, zucchini goes from watery to buttery—perfect for spreading on toast, smearing inside a sandwich, or dolloping on a grain bowl.
5. Parker & Otis' Pimento Cheese
Grated cheddar cheese, jarred pimentos, and lots of mayonnaise—pimento cheese is so much more than the sum of its parts. We love it on buttery Ritz crackers as an appetizer, but it's just as great turned into a grilled cheese (with bacon!).
If deviled eggs are the ultimate party app, then this is the ultimate recipe. Virginia Willis sticks to a classic ingredient list with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and cayenne. But a knob of butter makes all the difference.
7. Louisa Shafia's Watermelon, Mint & Cider Vinegar Tonic
Meet the most refreshing drink you'll have all summer—thanks to juicy watermelon, fresh mint, and cider vinegar. Add a splash of vodka or gin if you so please.
8. Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole
"There is a very important textural thing to guacamole," Roberto Santibañez told me. "We never really mush up the avocado. You want to feel everything."
9. Brigit Binns' Crab Cakes
A fuss-free recipe for the freshest crab the season has to offer. But if you can't find fresh? Zero worries. We made these with some good quality canned crab and jarred pimentos, and they still turned out to be little bites of summer.
10. Maricel E. Presilla's Cuban Avocado, Watercress & Pineapple Salad
It would be difficult, even impossible, to find a grilled protein—steak, chicken, fish, tofu, you name it—that wouldn't want to team up with this salad.
11. Canal House's Marinated Zucchini
Grilled zucchini goes from good to great, all thanks to this zippy marinade made with olive oil, garlic, and red wine vinegar.
12. Whitney Wright's Sweet Corn Butter
Whitney Wright learned the magic of turning one ingredient (fresh, sweet summer corn) into butter while working the vegetable station at Per Se restaurant in New York City, but it's all the clever ways she uses it (think: slathered on biscuits, melted into a queso-style dip) that make it extra genius.
A warm-weather, vegetarian take on meaty ragu spooned over polenta. In this case, hunks of eggplant steal the show, and dried cornmeal makes way for fresh, sweet corn.
14. Sarah Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes
Finally: A tomato casserole that's mostly tomatoes. A little bread sops up the juices and a layer of melted Parm on top keeps you coming back.
15. Michel Richard's Glazed & Glistening Haricots Verts
Green beans do the talking here—backed up by a little butter, chicken stock, garlic (yes, unpeeled!), and Parmesan.
16. Kevin Gillespie's Creamless Creamed Corn With Mushrooms & Lemon
Creamless creamed corn?! Don't worry, there's still milk involved—except, it's "corn milk," scraped from the cobs. So yes, it happens to be completely vegan, as well as completely delicious.
17. Vera Obias' Cheddar & Black Pepper Cornbread
Cornbread gets the scone treatment—and turns out a lot better for it. Instead of stirring in melted butter, you cut in cold butter. (Oh, and then mix in lots of cheese.)
18. Kevin Gillespie's Barbecue Chicken With Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
If you have yet to try white BBQ sauce, now's the time. With a homemade mayo base and lots of garlic powder, cayenne, and black pepper, it does magical things for grilled chicken—and pork and zucchini and tempeh...
19. Michael Ruhlman's Pasta With Tomato Water, Basil & Garlic
Diced tomatoes—and their water—make this pasta as summery as can be. The recipe calls for fresh basil, but feel free to swap in another herb, like mint, dill, or chives.
20. Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers
This ingredient list is long—including not one, not two, but three types of pork (ground, chorizo, and bacon)—but oh, is it worth it.
21. Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Fried chicken plus anything is a summer menu just about anyone will love. This recipe is great hot and crisp, of course, but it's equally wonderful room-temp.
Beef tenderloin is very, well, tender. But it could use some help in the flavor department. Enter: a salt crust and smoky trip to hot coals.
Soup might not sound like the first thing you want to make when it's hot and sticky, but what about an instant, restorative green broth that will jolt you to life? You can even make a pared-down version Samin described on Home Cooking, her podcast with Hrishikesh Hirway, with nothing more than stock, frozen peas, tahini, and lemon. And you should!
Sohla El-Waylly created this recipe, a colorful spin on Fun Dip candy, as a fresh road trip snack to counter all the potato chips and fast food, but it's also a simple way to eat more vegetables anywhere—from picnics and long car rides to speedy desk lunches at home.
These chocolate-peanut butter puddles take about five minutes to stir together, without having to turn on the oven. Hooray! They go by all manner of names across the U.S. (like preacher cookies, poodgies, and simply no-bake cookies). With Scott Peacock's tips, you'll land exactly the gooey texture you want.
You can stir the batter together for this simple vanilla cake with only a bowl and spoon—no special equipment required—and be topping it with berries and whipped cream in under an hour. (Or buttercream and sprinkles, if that's your speed.)
A North Carolina coast pie, now famous all across the country. Picture: a crumbly Saltine crust, a custardy lemon filling, and wave after wave of whipped cream.
Feeding a crowd? Martha Stewart has an idea: slab pie, assembled in a sheet pan, ready for the masses.
29. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie
A fresher take on the classic blueberry pie. Whipped cream or ice cream on top is a must.
A peppy coffee ice cream in one step, no ice cream machine needed. Who else could have dreamed this up besides Nigella Lawson?
31. Brooke Dojny's Blueberry Snack Cake With Toasted Pecan Topping
Cornmeal and lemon zest make this cake the perfect place for blueberries and pecans to happily settle down.
Any fruit (peaches, apricots, blueberries) would be so lucky to be baked inside this flaky-as-heck pie crust. Oh, and what to dollop on top? Here's an idea...
Seeking a Genius topper for any dessert? Found one. Yogurt makes whipped cream extra-tangy and extra-good. Adjust the ratio as you see fit.
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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