With summer winding down, many of us will enjoy the final warm weather days by spending some quality time outdoors this Labor Day weekend.
And if a barbecue or picnic is on your agenda, you'll want to be sure to treat your guests to a few tasty treats!
So, with that in mind, we've tapped a couple of chefs to share a few fresh ideas that are just perfect for the final days of the season.
While just about everyone who is firing up the grill this weekend will cook up a beef burger, why not spice things up with a shrimp version of the American classic? Chef Big Shake of Shark Tank fame shares a Mediterranean-inspired recipe for those craving something new:
Chef Big Shake's Greek Shrimp Burger Wrap
2 tbsp. diced cucumbers
2 tbsp. diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. diced red onion
1/2 cup mixed lettuce greens
2 tbsp. feta cheese
2 ounces chopped original shrimp burger (grilled or pan cooked)
Greek vinaigrette dressing or Tzatziki Sauce (to taste)
Preparation: Start with freshest tortilla wrap you can find (use white, wheat, spinach or sundried tomato flavor). Add cooked Shrimp Burger (substitute a lean protein like chicken if Original Shrimp Burgers are not found in your local store yet), cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, mixed greens and cheese. Lightly drizzle vinaigrette dressing or Tzatziki sauce on wrap (to taste), then fold, roll and enjoy.
For a fun appetizer that makes the most of the season's freshest produce, nutritionist personal trainer and exercise physiologist Franci Cohen has created a snack that's sure to please guests while they wait on their shrimp burger wraps:
2 medium long eggplants
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup pesto sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Homemade Pesto (combine all in food processor):
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Preheat stovetop grill pan or outdoor grill on high heat. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices (about 6 slices each eggplant). Brush the eggplant slices evenly with olive oil on both sides. Grill the eggplant slices in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side and then let cool. Mix ricotta cheese, pesto and lemon juice together in a small bowl and spread a heaping tablespoon of the mixture evenly over each eggplant slice. Roll up the eggplant slices, place on a plate seam-side down and serve.
And for a sumptious side dish, Cohen recommends a fun alternative to the traditional salad:
Greek Quinoa Tomato Bowls
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. garlic paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 scallions thinly sliced
1 small red onion, diced
3 English cucumber,diced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
8 beefsteak tomatoes, insides scooped out, but leave shell on bottom
Preparation: Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, garlic and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the salad. Combine the quinoa, 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender (about 15 minutes). Transfer to a bowl, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Add the tomatoes, olives, green onions, red onions, cucumbers, feta cheese, and dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours before serving—the longer it sits the better the flavor. Fill tomatoes, arrange on platter and serve!