Standout Recipes for Your Labor Day Soirée

We love to travel, but we also enjoy connecting with friends and loved ones at home during cookouts and social gatherings.

With Labor Day approaching as the most popular end-of-summer weekend to entertain, here our two of our favorite crowd-pleasing recipes that are fresh and delicious.

For a simple side bursting with flavor, make the Watermelon & Tomato Salad, which can be easily adjusted to feed a large group. If you can’t possible eat another hot dog or burger, the homemade Spinach Gnocchi dish is a decadent meatless alternative that will be popular with cheese-lovers. Bon appétit!

Watermelon & Tomato Salad:

It is easy to become addicted to this refreshing salad created by celebrity chef David Danielson. The mint and basil flavors are amazing. Slice the red onions thinly, pickle them ahead of time and then store in refrigerator until ready to put in salad. Learn how to easily pickle onions here.

Serves 4 | Total time: 10 minutes

1 cup cubed seedless watermelon

3 medium multicolored tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks

1 small English cucumber, cut into chunks

¼ cup sliced pickled red onions 

½ tbsp. chopped fresh mint

½ tbsp. chopped fresh basil

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. black pepper

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Toss together watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, mint and basil in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour oil mixture over watermelon mixture, and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.

Spinach Gnocchi:

This tender spinach gnocchi with brown butter recipe calls for three types of cheese and was created by star chef Marc Vetri. If you are using baby spinach or pre-trimmed spinach, you will need about 1 pound rather than the 2 1/2 pounds called for below.

Serves 6 | Total time: 1 hour

2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed

1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese (1 ounce)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup plain, dry, fine bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and shaved ricotta salata, for serving

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Step 1   

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the spinach until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Cool the spinach in a bowl of ice water, then drain and squeeze dry. Wipe out the pot, fill with water and bring to a gentle simmer.

Step 2    

Meanwhile, transfer the spinach to a food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid and puree until very smooth; add a bit more cooking liquid if needed.

Step 3    

Scrape 1 cup of the spinach puree into a large bowl. (Reserve any remaining puree for another use.) Mix in the grated Grana Padano cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup of the flour to form a soft dough.

Step 4    

Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour in a pie plate and dust a large rimmed baking sheet with flour. Gently roll the gnocchi dough into 1-inch balls. Carefully roll the gnocchi in the flour, shake off the excess and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Step 5    

Add salt to the simmering water. Add half of the gnocchi to the pot and cook until they rise to the surface, then simmer until cooked through, about 3 minutes (about 5 minutes total cooking time). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a platter. Cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

Step 6    

In a skillet, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Spoon the brown butter over the gnocchi. Top with Parmigiano and ricotta salata and serve.