Monday marks the unofficial end of summer. Families and friends gather on Labor Day for one last hurrah before kids really knuckle down to the new school year and their parents — the workforce to whom the national holiday pays tribute — return to their jobs after a long weekend.
A great Labor Day party should be simple on the hostess, welcoming and relaxing for guests on their day off. Soak up the spirit of summer's end by using themes such as:
• Back-to-school: Decorate in the team colors of your children's schools, set up self-serve food stations with food names written on a chalkboard, serve food in lunch boxes.
• Neighborhood block party: Everyone brings a potluck dish and camp chair. Set up a sound system to play music for dancing under the stars, or project a movie onto a big sheet for family entertainment.
• Whiteout: Remember that fashion mandate about not wearing white after Labor Day? So give the color one last fling and ask everyone to wear all white to a party on Labor Day. Adventurous moms might add really messy children's games -- paintball, egg toss, water balloon battles -- a great bribe to get kids to roll with the dress code.
And say goodbye to summer with a menu offering one last taste of seasonal favorites: barbecue, corn on the cob, watermelon, berries, vine-ripe tomatoes, toss-and-serve salads and homemade ice cream. No hostess wants to labor over the stove so, with that thought in mind, three local chefs suggest dishes that can be made ahead of time or with no stress the day of.
Chefs Neville Forsythe, Charlie Loomis and Rebecca Barron share their recipes for favorites they'd serve at their own backyard bashes.
CHEF NEVILLE FORSYTHE
• Restaurant: Mrs. B's Reggae Cafe, 3103 Broad St.
• Why he chose this recipe: "Everyone is doing ribs, so after a heavy Labor Day meal, try something light and different. You can make this with mango, pineapple or papaya. You can even do this on the grill and it will have a smoky, sweet taste. It's a light, sweet taste to finish the meal. A bottle of champagne is the perfect complement. "
Choose any of the above fruits, use either by themselves or in any combination. Peel and cut into large pieces. Lightly dust with your favorite curry powder. Grill or broil on medium heat to caramelize natural sugars. Drizzle with honey.
Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
CHEF CHARLIE LOOMIS
• Restaurant: 1885 Grill, 3914 St. Elmo Ave.
• Why he chose this recipe: "It's great for anyone with a family because there are so many pieces of chicken to split up -- give the kids the legs, adults the breasts and still have pieces left for your guests. Second, it is super-easy because you can pre-bake it, put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to put it on the grill, and then heat it back up. Once it's on the grill, you can knock it out in less than 10 minutes. Pre-cooking also breaks down tendons in the chicken, which makes legs and thighs more tender."
1 whole chicken (ask butcher to cut into 8 pieces)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the marinade ingredients and toss with the chicken. Let this marinate for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour.
Roast the chicken in the oven until it reaches 160 degrees. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes, or cool down until you are ready to use it.
Toss the chicken with your favorite barbecue sauce. (Loomis suggests Carolina Gold Barbecue Sauce.) Grill until the skin is crispy and the sauce begins to caramelize. Base once more before serving.
CHEF REBECCA BARRON
• Restaurant: St. John's Restaurant, 1278 Market St.
• Why she chose this recipe: "I like this salad because it's not overly filling and it's refreshing for late summer. I chose it because ceviche is one of my favorite things to make, and eat, on my day off."
Zucchini and Ceviche Salad
1 pound very fresh fish (steelhead trout, rainbow trout, tuna or tilapia suggested)
1 pound fresh gulf shrimp
2 pounds zucchini, shaved thinly lengthwise
3 ears grilled corn, sliced off the cob
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 radishes, shaved very thinly
2 tablespoons each cilantro, mint and Italian flat-leaf parsley, gently torn
2-3 limes, juiced
1 sliced jalapeno, seeds removed
Splash of olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar or sugar cane vinegar
Sea salt, kosher salt or smoked salt to taste
2 ripe avocados
8 squash blossoms for garnish
Skin and remove bones of fish, then slice very thinly.
Remove tails and veins of shrimp. Cook in lemon and salt water until just set. Put shrimp aside in refrigerator until chilled.
Puree both avocados with salt and a little of the lime juice.
Wash and tear squash blossoms, remove stems.
Mix fish, shrimp, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil. Let mixture rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Letting the raw fish rest in the lime juice and vinegar actually "cooks" the fish.
Toss fish and shrimp mixture with all ingredients except squash blossoms and avocado puree. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.
To serve, spoon a little of the avocado puree onto a serving platter. Arrange salad nicely on platter, topping with the torn squash blossoms.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284. favorite curry powder. Grill or broil on medium heat to caramelize natural sugars. Drizzle with honey.
Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...