Gretchen's Table: This Labor Day, grill corn and zucchini, too!

Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Entertaining

Labor Day is often the last cookout of the summer season, not to mention the second most popular grilling day of the year (after July 4). So there's a good chance hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued chicken or ribs are on the menu.

We get it — there's nothing like the undeniable aroma and taste of smoke-kissed meat to bring a smile to a meat lover's face at a backyard gathering.

But you also need some great side dishes to round out the meal, plus options for any vegetarians.

Baked beans and potato salad often top the list because they're easy, inexpensive and can feed a crowd. But if you really want to kick summer to the curb with a bang, why not choose dishes that showcase seasonal fruits and veggies like farm-fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, local peaches and the pound after pound of homegrown zucchini your green-thumbed friends and family are trying to get rid of this time of year?

The following two recipes from food52.com do just that — make the most of what late-summer gardens and farmers markets have to offer going into fall, with the added benefit of being both easy to prepare and pretty on the table.

One pairs grilled sweet corn tossed with cherry tomatoes that have been gently blistered in a cast-iron skillet for an extra punch of umami flavor, then tossed in a zesty, uber-fresh mint-lime dressing. The other features zucchini that gets charred in an extra-hot skillet until it's fork tender, then doused in a garlicky vinaigrette.

Light and fresh, both are excellent next to any grilled meat or fish.

Marinated Zucchini

PG tested

This easy zucchini dish only takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and can be served at room temperature after marinating for about an hour on your countertop. It can be easily doubled to serve a crowd.

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 pound very small zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise


1/2 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


A small handful fresh basil leaves, sliced

Working in batches as needed, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the zucchini cut side down in one layer in the hot skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes.

Use a fork or tongs to turn the zucchini over, then cook them until tender, about 2 minutes, reducing the heat if the zucchini get too dark. Transfer the zucchini to a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt.

Whisk together the garlic, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini and add the basil.

Gently toss everything together and adjust the seasonings. Let the zucchini marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Alternately, let marinate longer in the refrigerator. Tightly covered, marinated zucchini will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Serves 4.


— food52.com

Grilled Corn and Mozzarella Salad

PG tested

4 ears of corn, shucked

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for grilling the corn

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch of salt, plus more for seasoning the veggies

Juice of 1 lime

1 cup fresh mint, lightly packed

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-size pieces

2 scallions, light green and dark green parts thinly sliced

Rub olive oil generously all over the shucked corn. Grill on high heat (or in a cast-iron skillet), rotating often, until the kernels are lightly charred all over, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle all over with salt.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan set over medium-high heat. Place tomatoes cut-side up in the pan and sprinkle with salt. Cook until slightly blistered, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. (If grilling, cook tomatoes in a pan on the grill or on a piece of aluminum foil.)

Make the vinaigrette: In a blender or food processor, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, lime juice, mint, and a big pinch of black pepper until emulsified.

Once they're cool enough to handle, cut kernels off the corn by laying the cob on its side and cutting off each side, rotating as you go.

To a serving bowl, add the bite-size pieces of the mozzarella cheese, plus the corn, tomatoes, and scallions. Add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature, and enjoy.

Serves 4.

— adapted from food52.com




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