Labor Day was established in the late 1880s to honor what New York's Central Labor Union called the "strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" with street parades, festivals and a day of recreation for workers and their families. We continue the tradition on the first Monday of each September, unofficially ringing out the summer season and giving casual outdoor entertaining a final go.
In that spirit, and to augment the burgers and sausages that have sustained your barefoot dining this summer, we offer an easy menu of garlicky grilled squid, tenderized in a milk marinade and brightened up with a bit of lemon, accompanied by tender, savory cranberry beans combined with a simple, creamy and tangy tomato-yogurt sauce and topped with crisp, salty onions. Both dishes are balanced between richness and acidity, which is why we suggest pouring a Chardonnay.
Just as you can adjust the piquancy of the following recipes—adding more or less lemon juice, oil or yogurt sauce as suits your palate—so, too, can you choose either an unoaked or oaked wine from the list of recently rated selections below to highlight or contrast with the smokiness of the grilled seafood, the tanginess of the lemon or the creaminess of the yogurt sauce. Round out the menu with corn on the cob and an arugula or spinach salad, and happily bid adieu to summer 2014.
Garlic-Marinated Grilled Squid
- 2 1/2 pounds squid, skinned and cleaned, tentacles and bodies separated
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
- 2 cups milk
- 6 to 10 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Place the squid in a nonreactive bowl or casserole. In another bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil and the garlic paste, then stir in the milk and lemon zest. Pour this mixture over the squid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
2. Over hot coals or high heat, grill the squid bodies and tentacles, turning them once, for about 2 minutes total, just long enough to mark them on the grill. The residual heat will finish cooking them. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
Beans with Tomato-Yogurt Sauce and Crispy Onions
For the beans:
- 1 1/2 cups dried cranberry beans
- 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- 1 rib celery, cut into 2 pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the beans in a pot with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaf. Cover with 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 3 to 5 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Set aside for 1 hour.
2. Add another 3 cups water to the beans and return to a boil. Reduce to a high simmer and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, until the beans are tender but still holding their shape. Drain the beans and discard the vegetables and bay leaf. Transfer the beans to a bowl and stir in the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until about 45 minutes before serving; these beans taste best at room temperature or, if you prefer, slightly warmed. Serves 6 to 8.
For the tomato-yogurt sauce:
- 2 pounds ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes (about 3 medium-large tomatoes)
- 1 cup whole-milk yogurt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Using very sharp paring or chef's knife, make an "X" at the top and base of each tomato. Carefully place the tomatoes in the boiling water and let cook for 30 seconds, to loosen the skin. Remove from the water with tongs or a skimmer and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin.
2. Cut the tomatoes into approximately 1/2-inch pieces, discarding any hard white sections of core. In a nonreactive bowl, fold together the tomatoes, yogurt, oil, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and, if several hours have passed, refold and, if necessary, re-season before serving.
For the crispy onions:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or rendered lard
- 2 small red or white onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rings
- Salt, to taste
In a cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil or lard over medium-high until shimmering. Add the onions, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are medium- to dark-brown and crisp, about 10 minutes, adding more fat as needed to keep a shallow pool of hot fat in the pan, which will keep the onions from sticking and scorching. Transfer the onions to a paper towel to drain, then toss with salt. Serve crumbled over beans and yogurt sauce.
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
CHEHALEM Chardonnay Willamette Valley INOX 2012 Score: 90 | $19
A refreshing style, offering lively balance to the pear, tangerine, lime and stone character, persisting into a well-formed, focused beam. This has depth and length. Drink now through 2016. 5,050 cases made. —H.S
DE WETSHOF Chardonnay Robertson Lesca 2013 Score: 90 | $25
Fresh-cut white peach and pear fruit forms the core, with a lightly firm, stony edge and a finish that picks up green almond and melon rind notes. Exhibits a nice combination of weight and freshness. Drink now through 2015. 5,500 cases made. —J.M.
FOWLES Chardonnay Victoria Are You Game? 2012 Score: 90 | $17
Crisp and tangy, with enough flesh to the pear and tangerine flavors to add depth to the citrusy acidity at the core. This has the harmony and balance to develop with cellaring. Drink now through 2017. 5,000 cases made. —H.S.
MORGAN Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands Metallico Un-Oaked 2012 Score: 90 | $22
Pure and ripe, offering juicy notes of honeydew melon, ginger, spice and nectarine, ending with a sustained finish that echoes the core fruit flavors. Drink now through 2017. 6,108 cases made. —J.L.
SMOKING LOON Chardonnay California Steelbird Unoaked 2012 Score: 89 | $8
Pure Chardonnay, intense, fresh and vibrant, this is loaded with citrus, green apple and citrus blossom, showing steely flinty notes. Sings and dances from start to finish. Drink now. 52,000 cases made. —J.L.
VIÑA SANTA RITA Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Reserva 2011 Score: 89 | $13
This white features intense ripe pear, butterscotch and mango flavors that are balanced and refreshingly rich. Buttery midpalate, showing good acidity behind the fruit and spice character. Smoke and tropical notes fill the finish. Drink now through 2017. 21,600 cases made. —K.M.
VERAMONTE Chardonnay Casablanca Valley 2012 Score: 89 | $12
Concentrated, showing good balance to the dried apple, green fig and pear flavors. Features plenty of buttery notes, with a finish that lingers with sage honey and spice hints. Drink now. 13,000 cases made. —K.M.
14 HANDS Chardonnay Washington 2011 Score: 89 | $12
Light and silky, offering pretty lime blossom–scented pear and spice flavors, lingering enticingly and harmoniously. Drink now through 2015. 156,000 cases made. —H.S.
SEVEN FALLS Chardonnay Wahluke Slope 2012 Score: 89 | $15
Open-textured and appealing, revealing an almost weightless feel around the core of toasty, tobacco-accented pear and floral flavors, lingering easily on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 27,000 cases made. —H.S.
JEAN BOUSQUET Chardonnay Tupungato Valley Finca Rosa 2013 Score: 88 | $12
Fuji apple and green peach flavors show touches of elegance and light spicy accents. Buttery notes linger on the rich, pure finish. Drink now through 2016. 8,000 cases made. —K.M.
AMICI Chardonnay Sonoma County Olema 2012 Score: 88 | $15
A bold and assertive style, with rich, honey-laced melon, pear, apricot and fig flavors that are pure, focused and persistent. Drink now. 7,500 cases made. —J.L.
HARDYS Chardonnay South Australia Nottage Hill 2012 Score: 87 | $13
Fresh and lively, brimming with lemon and bright pineapple flavors on a deftly balanced frame, persisting on the finish. Drink now. 500,000 cases made. —H.S.
HESS SELECT Chardonnay Monterey County 2012 Score: 87 | $12
Exhibits a fresh, vibrant core of green pear and apple fruit, with spice, honeydew melon and light cedar notes, ending with a cleansing aftertaste. Drink now. 300,000 cases made. —J.L.
FOUR VINES Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Naked Unoaked 2011 Score: 87 | $12
Rich and juicy, with pure, ripe white peach, honeysuckle and nectarine notes, ending with a delicate, mouthwatering finish. Drink now. 50,000 cases made. —J.L.