Almost-No-Labor Labor Day Dishes

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor

Photo credit: Tara Striano, StockFood

You’re almost there, and man, did you earn it. That extra day is gonna feel SO GOOD.

Sop up the last of the dog days by not only taking advantage of the Platonic ideal of summer foods, but also by taking. It. Easy. Now is not the time to bust out that high-maintenance layer cake, or make something that requires three days and two hours of chopping. Save those for, well, winter.

Throw together one of these dishes instead. Simplicity is what people are craving right now; less really is more on this one. 

Squash + Olive Oil: Grab squash from your garden or the market stalls; slice about 1/2-inch thick lengthwise, brush with olive oil, season with salt and a touch of pepper. Plop over medium heat. Wait till some marks appear. There you go.

Beef + Salt: Oh, my goodness, are you OVERDOING IT WITH THE BURGERS? Stop it right now. All good beef needs is a good hit with sea salt right before it goes on the grill. Form patties in your hands without overworking the beef (which can dry it out). Make a little dent in the center of the top of the patty with your thumb so they don’t blow up and turn into softballs that don’t fit into buns, and turn on the heat. That’s it. No pepper needed. No oregano. Certainly no foie

Photo credit: StockFood / Ngoc Minh & Julian Wass

EVOO + Peaches: Split one of August’s gorgeous, juicy peaches in half lengthwise, carefully removing the pit. Brush with a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a medium-hot grill, cut-side down, for 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. 

Corn + Tomatoes + Jalapeños: No grill? No sweat. There’s more than one way to get that corn cooked, and with the sweetest stuff right now, you can just leave it raw. Mix it with chopped tomatoes and minced jalapeños, season to taste with salt and pepper, and add a sluice of extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of red wine vinegar. Spoon over fish, chicken, chips, or whatever’s in sight.  

Cucumbers + Tomatoes + Dill + Olive Oil: Bright, crisp cucumbers make an ideal foil for all the greasy, heavy stuff on the table. Just dice (along with tomatoes if you’ve got ‘em), drizzle with olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and hit with balsamic or red wine vinegar if it needs a spritz of acid. 

Photo credit: Sarah Karnasiewicz

Raw Fish + Lime Juice: Like this. Or this. Crudo. It’s so easy! If you spy a big slab of high-quality salmon, it’s not something you want to overcook. Let the citrus juice do your work for you. 

Tomatoes + Mozzarella + Basil: Caprese salads are classic for a reason. They let each ingredient shine and they look banging, to boot. Layer to your liking and spike with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Tuck in. 

Bourbon + Lemonade + Mint: The easiest punch is the one made using lemonade from the grocery store fridge (Newman’s if you see it), a half bottle of bourbon from the liquor shop down the street, and a fistful of mint. Add berries if you like. Adjust proportions of lemonade and liquor to your liking. You’re so fancy!

Photo credit: Condé Nast Collection, StockFood

Hot Dogs + Bun: Old-school forever. Take hot dog. Place on grill. Warm up the bun (let’s stay civilized, here). Dress. And happy no-labor-Labor-Day.