Labor Day is the last official summer celebration, signaling that the dog days are nearing an end. While the weather will remain warm for weeks to come, afternoons playing baseball in the park will soon give way to more indoor-centric activities. So follows cooking.
But the Hunters aren’t battening down the hatches just yet. Instead we want to tell you about a fun and easy picnic for Labor Day that the whole family will enjoy—a gourmet ballpark picnic.
No all-American celebration is complete without hot dogs, coleslaw and potato salad, and if your kids are like ours, they’ll be pleased as punch with the menu.
Instead of the same old franks, pick up some gourmet sausages and artisan buns from your local grocer. There’s nothing wrong with store-bought potato salad and coleslaw from the deli case. We like to spruce up the coleslaw, though, with a little bit of thinly sliced red onion, red bell pepper and chopped cilantro. For the potato salad, add a little chopped celery, red and yellow bells, dill and scallions. The idea is to make it crunchy and colorful. No one will ever know you bought it from the deli.
To make your hot dogs extra-special, we’ve provided our favorite recipes for Caramelized Balsamic Onions and Sweet Pepper Relish. You’ll be amazed by these homemade accompaniments when spooned between a grilled hot dog or gourmet sausage and a toasted bun. If you like heat, add sliced jalapeño to the relish to balance the sugar with spice.
Caramelized Balsamic Onions
4 tablespoons butter
3 yellow onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (optional)
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, brown sugar and salt. Stir well to combine and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. Stir once and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. The onions will shrink dramatically as their water cooks out.
When the natural and added sugars begin to caramelize, stir the onions more often, achieving a golden color without scorches or burns. Add the vinegar, stir well, remove from the heat, and add the oregano if you like. Serve hot or cold. Makes about 2 cups
Carrot, Fennel & Sweet Pepper Relish
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 carrots, grated
2 red bell peppers, minced
2 bulbs fennel, minced
1 yellow onion, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño pepper (optional)
Heat the dressing ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the dressing boils. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the relish vegetables and cook over low heat for another 5 minutes.
Place a colander inside a bowl and scrape the relish into the colander to drain; set the relish aside. Pour the dressing back into the saucepan and boil, reducing the dressing to a syrupy consistency. Combine the syrup with the relish, allow it to cool, and store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 4 servings
Note: The relish will stay crisp in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days, but the bright colors will begin to fade after a day or two.
So make it easy, take it easy and enjoy your long weekend!
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