Labor Day variations on a theme

I’ve been having a pretty good summer but I find myself in a quandary, which is troubling because I’m not even sure what a quandary is. But it seems I’ve just gotten started with summer dining fare and it’s already time to move on to fall and winter grub.

Colorado throws me off that way. The best farmer’s market offerings are in August, which is just a stone’s throw from the end of the year. Palisade peaches, sweet Olathe corn, and Rocky Ford melons come and they go so damn quickly … you can’t find them, can’t find them, can’t find them … then all of a sudden they’re everywhere, and then before you know it they’re gone.

The weather doesn’t help. It’s 90º today, 75º tomorrow, and 90º again by the weekend. So who knows whether you should be splitting a watermelon on the porch or hunkering down in front of the fire with a bowl of stew?

That’s where we are with Labor Day. Typically the last major grill-fest, and yet it doesn’t feel like summer any more.

Which is why I’m thinking of one-off versions of typical summer grill and BBQ stand-bys. Baked beans and potato salad, but just a wee bit off.

Potato Salad with Green Beans and Salsa Verde, via Napa’s Long Meadow Ranch Winery.

Instead of mayo, the salsa verde and lemon zest and juice makes this a bright and versatile salad that goes well with just about everything, and makes for a nice summer/fall transition side.

Salsa Verde

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chives, finely chopped
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
(or substitute ½ cup of other seasonal herbs)
2 Tbs mint, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt to taste

Mix everything in a small bowl (at least one cup) and let it stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Potato Salad

1—1½ pounds potatoes, 1 inch cubes
2-3 Tbs butter
1 lb trimmed green beans

Boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes in salted water, then drain and toss with 1-2 Tbs of butter (or olive oil). Lightly salt. Then boil the beans for 3-4 minutes, just until tender. Drain and toss with 1 Tbs of butter. Optional: after draining, dunk the beans in a large bowl of ice water for a minute to preserve the color.
Clean up saver: instead of draining the potatoes, scoop them out and transfer them to another bowl, preserving the water. Then boil the beans in the potato water. This saves water and energy, since you’re not bringing two pots of water to a boil separately.

Mix the potatoes and beans, then coat with the salsa verde. The author recommends serving immediately, but this will keep at room temperature for a few hours or can be saved in the fridge until you’re ready.

Chipotle-Maple Black Beans, via the Cuisine at Home folks.

1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 cans black beans (drain or not drained, doesn’t matter)
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup ketchup
* 1-2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

*Lots of ways to go here. Use one chile with its seeds, or two or three chiles with or without seeds, depending on how hot you want it. Start on the low end and work your way up unless you know everyone likes it hot. A grapefruit spoon is an easy way to remove the seeds: just cut the chile length-ways and scrape the seeds out.

Saute the onions over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze with the vinegar, then turn to high and bring to a boil. Add everything else, reduce to medium low, and simmer for ten minutes.
At this point, you can serve them up if you want, but it’s better to turn it down to low, cover with a slight vent, and simmer for a good hour. Or, if you don’t mind getting two pots dirty, you can saute the onions and garlic, deglaze, then move everything to a crock pot on high for 1-2 hours.

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5 Responses to Labor Day variations on a theme

  1. Faith says:

    I love your updates on these classic dishes! The salsa verde sounds incredible — I love versatile sauces like that!

  2. Louise says:

    we are so spoiled here in california, the abundance of produce is unimaginable. i think i told you im from colorado. sooooo been to Casa Bonita? sorry, had to ask.

  3. Negatory on the Casa Bonita, but have been to The Fort. Not at all alike, but similar i have been told in that you only go when you have out of town guests.

  4. Casa Bonita, that is funny. We have never been there either.Great dishes for the weekend! Love the pictures of your baby girl. She is so cute. Yes, they take all your time away, don't they.Wishing you a wonderful weekend with some beautiful Colorado weather.

  5. Anytime I hear verde anything I am game! Love to pair potatoes with herbs and tanginess!

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