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Friday Food Post: What to Make This Memorial Day Weekend

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg View columnist. She wrote for the Daily Beast, Newsweek, the Atlantic and the Economist and founded the blog Asymmetrical Information. She is the author of "“The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.”
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Are you looking at a weekend of cookouts, visiting family and oh-my-gosh-what-am-I-going-to-cook? Here's my "best of" list to get you through the weekend. Some of these recipes are new, and some you've seen before, but all are on the list for one reason only: These are a few of my favorite things.

My Favorite Grilled Chicken: This tops the list, because almost everyone I've ever served it to has asked for the recipe. Maybe everyone. Adapted from here, for those who don't like to freeze their hands trying to put tiny chunks of ice-cold chicken on a kabob stick.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper or 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper plus 2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt  
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
  • 2 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1.5-inch strips

Soak the Aleppo pepper in a tablespoon of warm water for five minutes. Mix with all the ingredients except the chicken, blending well. Add in the chicken and marinate at least 8 hours or overnight. Grill. Enjoy the delicious.

Vegetarian alternative: Freeze tofu, thaw, and press the excess water out. Cut into strips and marinate like chicken. Grill. Enjoy.

My Favorite Grilled Pork Chops: We eat these all the time in the summer. Simple, savory and delicious.

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed. 

 Whisk together, pour over pork chops, marinate 6-12 hours (though we didn't make it that long).  Sear on both sides for 1-2 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and grill 9-11 minutes until done.

My Favorite Steak Marinade:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • Hot sauce to taste, if you roll that way.

Whisk the ingredients together, pour over steak, marinate at least two hours.

My Favorite Pulled Pork That Does Not Require a Smoker:

  • Pork rub
  • 1 5-lb pork shoulder
  • 1 cup good barbecue sauce, like Sweet Baby Ray's.

Rub the shoulder with the spice rub. Wrap it in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, place into your slow cooker with 1 cup of bbq sauce. Cook on low 9-11 hours. Feast.

My Favorite Ribs That Do Not Require a Smoker:

These. Trust me. Worth all the effort.

My Favorite Grilled Vegetable: Slice zucchini into 1-inch rounds or long, thin strips. Toss with equal parts of garlic, olive oil and herbes de provence, 1-2 tablespoons each. Grill over high heat for a couple of minutes using a grill pan.

My Favorite Supermarket Hot Dog: Nathan's.

My Favorite Mail Order Hot Dog: Vienna Red Hots.

My Favorite Hot Dog Buns: You are missing the point of the exercise. Think again.

My Favorite Basically Healthy Entree for After I Am Feeling Guilty About How Much I Ate on Memorial Day: Shrimp with zucchini noodles.

Make enough zucchini noodles for your family using a spiralizer (you can get a cheap one at Target). My rule of thumb is one person, one medium-to-large zucchini. Put on a plate beside the stove and set aside.

Make the shrimp and the sauce:

  • 1 2 lb bag frozen raw peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh or frozen lemon juice (not from the big "real lemon" bottle)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus a tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream. 

Over medium heat, melt the butter in the pan. Cook the shrimp, stirring, until they are white fleshed and firm. Remove from the pan. Add wine, lemon juice, tomato paste, spices, and cook, whisking together, for two minutes. Toss in the cream and the zucchini noodles. Cook 1-2 minutes until the noodles are just done, because there is a fine line with zucchini noodles between "delightfully al dente" and "disgusting slop." Put the shrimp, sauce, and noodles in a serving dish, stir together, and serve.

My favorite potato salad. Okay, so this loaded baked potato salad is not my favorite potato salad; my favorite potato salad is what my Mom made when I was 10. But this is everyone else's favorite potato salad; it is another of my most-requested recipes. It is not even a little bit good for you, though you can make it healthier using Greek yogurt and light mayonnaise instead of the full fat stuff. You can also make it vegetarian by using Bacon Bits instead of real bacon. If you make the full-fat version, I guarantee that no matter how much you make, there will not be a bite left in the bowl at the end of the night. And you don't even have to peel the potatoes!

  • 5 pounds small unpeeled red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons prepared mustard

Cut the potatoes into cubes and place on a baking sheet with a rim. (They can be close, but make sure none are on top of each other.) Bake at 425 until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. In a small bowl, mix mustard, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Pour over potatoes and the rest of the ingredients and stir to mix.

You can add onions and chopped pickles to this, but the Official Blog Spouse doesn’t like them, so I don’t.

My Favorite Pasta Salad: Marcella Hazan's Pesto.

May Favorite Pasta Salad That Is Not Marcella Hazan's Pesto

Note that this is a pretty low-pasta pasta salad. If you want something that's more pasta heavy, just add another box of pasta and a little more butter and pepper.

  • 1 lb penne or other pasta, cooked.
  • 2 supermarket-sized boxes of grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 8 oz package perlini mozarella, or larger balls cut into halves or quarters
  • 1 cup basil leaves, washed and dried and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • A lot of fresh ground black pepper. There should be enough that it looks like the pasta is getting some sort of skin disease. And you cannot use the pre-ground stuff, which will make hair grow on the back of your hands. Or something.

Melt the butter in a skillet, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook until the tomatoes are just softening. Toss with the pasta and the remaining ingredients. Serve warm (it reheats well if you want to make ahead -- just microwave or toss it in a medium oven for 10 minutes).

My Favorite Bean Salad: I'm pretty hard on bean salads. Three cans of beans tossed with supermarket vinaigrette is, in my nightmares, the only thing they serve in hell. But I do like this Middle Eastern chickpea salad, which is halfway between hummus and balilah:

  • 1 bag chickpeas, soaked in salted water overnight
  • 2 lemons, peeled and chopped
  • A tablespoon of fresh lemon juice from another lemon
  • 2-4 tablespoons of tahini, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons cumin
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Drain the chickpeas, put in a pan, and cover with 2-3 inches of new water, along with a pinch of baking soda. Simmer about 45 minutes, until firm but tender. Toss with the remaining ingredients. Good warm or cold.

My favorite salad salad: We're salad minimalists at the Stately McSuderman McMansion. I like salads with greens in them and maybe one or two complementary vegetables. Here's a favorite that I've been eating a lot lately.

  • 1 box of pre-washed arugula
  • 4-8 ounces grape tomatoes, tossed with olive oil and roasted on a baking pan at 250 for 3 hours
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Vinaigrette made from one parts fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 2 parts olive oil and a drizzle of good truffle oil
  • 1-2 poached eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Place the first three ingredients together in a bowl. Make the vinaigrette by whisking the lemon juice and oils together (it will be very thin). Poach your eggs and drop them onto the salad with the vinaigrette while still hot, then toss together so that the eggs are pulverized into the salad and the yolk. Grate parmesan cheese overall, with a microplane grater if you have one. Serve. Very good with:

My Favorite Easy Bread Recipe: New York Times No Knead Bread, hands down. I make this all summer. Don't tell me you're not a baker; just try it. It's foolproof.

My Favorite Brunch Food: Shakshouka.

My Favorite Pancakes

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons soft butter

Beat egg whites until stiff. While they are beating, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix together buttermilk and soda in a cup with a pouring spout. Beat egg yolks with a whisk or rotary beater until they are thick and creamy. Beat in buttermilk, then dry ingredients, then butter. Fold in the egg whites and drop onto a griddle that is 350 degrees.

My Favorite French Toast: Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for every 3 eggs. You won't regret it.

My Favorite Coffee Cake: Blueberry Buckle.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and well drained.
  • Crumble: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup soft butter mashed together.

Sift togther flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together egg, sugar, and butter. Stir in milk, then dry ingredients, then blueberries. Place in a buttered, floured 9 x 9 pan and top with crumble. Bake 25 to 35 minutes at 375.

My Favorite Layer Cake: Okay, one of my favorites. I'm nuts about layer cake, so I'm not going to choose, but here's a good one for folks who like the idea of the flavors in German's chocolate cake, but hate the sticky, almost greasy consistency of that horrible frosting. Cake is the perfect Memorial Day dessert: fairly easy to throw together, feeds a crowd, and travels well.

My Favorite Summer Cake: Angel food cake with lemon curd and raspberry puree

My Favorite Chocolate Cake: Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake. For the last three minutes it is in the oven, try putting mini york peppermint patties on top. When it comes out, gently (very gently!) spread them around to make a sort of topping. This is my husband's favorite birthday cake.

My Favorite Pound Cake: Elvis Presley's favorite pound cake. No contest. There is no runner up.

Readers are, as always, invited to share recipes and suggestions in the comments. Happy feasting!

  1. Available online, or sometimes at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. It is the best spice ever, and I order it by the pound.

  2. If you can't find whole milk Greek yogurt, stir a few tablespoons of cream into the 2% version.

  3. The stuff from those Gourmet Garden tubes is fine. The stuff from the little jars is not. You need something fresh-ish.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Megan McArdle at

To contact the editor on this story:
Philip Gray at