Labor Day Appetizers, Sides & Desserts – Including Olive Oil Ice Cream!

Many of us – ourselves included – will be firing up the grill on Labor Day, cooking burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and other foods. We’ll also be sorting through the summer bounty of vegetables and fruits to create appetizers, side dishes and desserts. Count us among those, for example, who’ll be tucking into peach pie and ice cream. To help your Labor Day menu planning, we’ve assembled a variety of appetizers, side dishes and desserts. Some are cooked over fire, including a grilled ratatouille and grilled leeks drizzled with pomegranate vinaigrette. Others dishes are cooked at the home stove – or require little stove time at all, like the ice cream.

Take your pick. And Happy Labor Day!

Grilled Leeks with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Cooks appreciate this member of the onion family for its sweet, delicate flavor. Grilling this vegetable kicks the flavor up another notch. Drizzling them with a ruby-red pomegranate vinaigrette adds another dimension. The recipe appears in the grilling cookbook Fire It Up (Chronicle Books, 2011), by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Fried Eggplant with Fresh Mint and Garlic We’re huge fans of eggplants. So are the Italians. This dish comes from the southern Italian region of Puglia. If you see a boot-shaped country when you look at Italy on the map, you’ll find this region in the “heel” area. In this dish, sliced eggplant are fried in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, and then topped with chopped garlic, salt, chopped mint leaves, and a drizzle of wine vinegar. The recipe appears in Puglia: A Culinary Memoir (Orzono Editions, 2008), by Maria Pignatelli Ferrante. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Grilled Ratatouille Ratatouille is known as “the symphonic vegetable stew of Provence.” This particular ratatouille has been revamped for the grill. “Moving everything over a flame causes each vegetable to retain more of its distinctive flavor and texture and transforms the finished dish into a mountainous grilled salad, glistening with olive oil and radiating with the aroma of fresh basil,” Andrew Schloss and David Joachim write in their cookbook, Mastering the Grill (Chronicle Books, 2007), where this recipe appears. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese Marie Simmons has penned a whole cookbook about figs, Fig Heaven (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2004). It showcases “the world’s most luscious fruit.” Marie also  shared a recipe for roasted figs that’s won rave reviews. Halved figs are placed cut side up on a baking dish and topped with crumbled fresh goat cheese. The figs and cheese get a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and honey, plus a sprinkling of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme. They’re roasted in the oven until the cheese is golden and the figs are caramelized. Serve as an appetizer or as dessert. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Arbequina Olive Oil Ice Cream
Skeptics and first timers of olive oil ice cream (pictured at the top ) have been won over by this recipe. After they’ve had their first couple of bites, people are amazed by how good such an ice cream can taste. We like to serve it with pie. And we’ll sometimes add chopped pistachios or hazelnuts for an added flavor twist. You could add fresh fruit, like peaches. Let your imagination run wild. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch