Labor Day, the unofficial last weekend of summer, is usually spent making sure the kids are ready for school, sorting through summer and fall clothes, and perhaps taking a trip to the beach. Take some time to plan some special celebratory cookout and outdoor meals too. Even if you continue grilling through the fall and winter, there's something special about the last summer holiday cookout. If you have time, visit a Farmer's Market for the best fresh corn, tomatoes, berries and herbs to make your weekend meals even more special. Besides getting the best tasting produce, you're also supporting local farmers, who usually farm organically. And remember to think about why we celebrate Labor Day. Labor Day is more than an excuse to barbeque, however. It is a day to recognize the contributions of America's working men and women as well as the economic and social achievements of the organized labor movement. While the majority of the world observes Labor Day on May 1, the United States has celebrated it on the first Monday in September since the 1880s. I call Labor Day the "hand to mouth holiday" - the best foods go directly from hand to mouth, no utensils required. The all-American sandwich has a rightful place, but juicy burgers and messy ribs top my list of Labor Day faves. Traditional Labor Day foods, though, are subtly changing. Some folks will forever remain beef burger purists, but alternatives such as turkey burgers, salmon burgers, veggie burgers and lamb burgers are rapidly on the rise. Likewise, the sesame seed bun competes with whole wheat, sourdough, herb dough, focaccia and English muffins. Today, the old-fashioned hamburger now has a passport to Asia, Latin America, India and the Caribbean, thanks to the expanding world of specialty condiments and foreign spices. For instance, for an Indian twist, spread a bit of Mango Chutney on a curry burger, and add cucumbers and minced mint instead of lettuce. Ribs also take on international airs, with dry rubs, marinades and sauces hailing from all corners of the globe. Pork ribs absolutely glow with honey-mustard and complex, fruity sauces of pomegranate, tamarind and pineapple. Beef ribs command bold, hearty sauces rich in dried chiles, tomato and vinegar, but they also shine with zesty Asian spices like ginger, coriander, and Chinese five-spice. This week we are going Thai. THAI BABY BACK RIBS 2 sides' pork baby back ribs or your favorite ribs Thai Barbecue Sauce Makes 3 cups INGREDIENTS 6 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger 8 Serrano peppers or other small hot chiles, minced, including seeds 4 small green onions, green and white parts, minced 1/4 cup minced cilantro sprigs 1 tablespoon grated or minced lime zest Juice from 3 limes 1 cup hoisin sauce 1/2 cup wine vinegar 1/4 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce 1/4 cup honey 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce 2 tablespoons flavorless cooking oil METHOD Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Then place the ribs in a rectangular dish or baking pan. To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients and stir well. Coat the ribs evenly on both sides with half the sauce. Marinate the ribs, refrigerated, for at least 15 minutes. For more flavor, marinate for up to 8 hours. Reserve the remaining sauce to serve as a sauce for the ribs. To grill the ribs, if using a gas barbecue, preheat to medium (325 degrees). If using charcoal or wood, prepare a fire. Grill according to the Quick Grilling, Smoking, and Roasting Directions. Occasionally during cooking, baste the ribs with the marinade, stopping 15 minutes before removing the ribs from the grill. To smoke the ribs or to roast the ribs, see Quick Grilling, Smoking, and Roasting Directions. To serve, cut each side of ribs in half, into 3 sections, or into individual ribs. Transfer to a heated serving platter or 4 heated dinner plates and serve at once accompanied by the reserved sauce. AND FINALLY... Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going back to school the next day. It would have been called Independence Day, but that name was already taken.
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