A Weeknight Supper For The Summer: The 30 Minute Edition

Signs that summer is in full swing: temperatures in the upper 80s and beyond, swimming lessons, ballet camp, road trip plans, gulping down novels, the constant whirr of fans at night, ice cream appearing at an alarming frequency, and an aversion to meals that require heating up the kitchen with excessive oven or stove use. 

Weeknight dinners seem especially prone to being upstaged by the heat. Sure, the menu calls for pasta with browned butter and sage, which sounded delicious and light three days ago, and the sage is thriving in the planter outside the front door, but it also hit 90 degrees around 2pm and now no one wants to boil pasta for any length of time. Years ago, in this situation, we would have been headed out the door to a restaurant or picked up the phone to order pizza, but circumstances change. We don’t eat out as much anymore, and making our own pizzas for the last four years has spoiled delivery pizza for us. (The fact that even throughout the summer we are willing to crank the oven to 500 for fresh, homemade pizza once a week surely says something about our relationship with that particular food.)

Luckily, our local co-op, Amazing Grains, has been full of delicious summer produce lately. I cannot go into the store without picking up at least two beautiful tomatoes from Meadowlark Gardens and two avocados (just like me, they came all the way from California and are in no way local; still, I find avocados hard to resist). Usually I buy two avocados because one is sure to be full of bad spots, but all the avocados I’ve had from the co-op this summer have been perfect. Which only encourages me to buy more the next time I am there.  With a few good pieces of produce and some eggs, I have everything I need for at least one easy, low-heat-producing meal each week.

The eggs came from the farmer’s market, which finally started up about three weeks ago. We have a lovely town square in Grand Forks with a stage in one corner, a giant waterwheel fountain in another, and a playground in a third. The first farmers market of the season there was not much to be had except radishes, lettuces, and eggs. But these eggs! Shells in cream, brown, and blue, and, once cracked, yolks in lemon yellow and cantaloupe orange! 

Our co-op also carries one of my favorite things: Juusto and Guusto baked cheeses from Pasture Pride of Wisconsin.  The Juusto is a cow’s milk cheese while the Guusto uses goat’s milk. Both are varieties of Scandinavian juustoleipa (bread cheese) which is a baked cheese that you can fry in a pan or on a grill, much like Greek haloumi cheese. When fried in a pan, the outer surfaces become crisp and chewy while the inside becomes soft, melty and oh so delicious.* 

And so one hot night, not long ago, I found myself with a menu plan that I had no intention of following. More importantly, I had a lime, some tomatoes, avocados, eggs, Guusto, and a packet of deli ham. I cut up the tomatoes and avocados (seriously, every time I cut into an avocado and find the inside perfect, it is like a little surprise gift), sprinkled them with salt and pepper and then tossed them with a bit of lime juice

In my big skillet, I set pieces of Guusto cheese in one third, melted butter for the fried eggs in another third, and flash-fried slices of ham in the last third. The ham finished cooking first, then the eggs and cheese finished at about the same time. I peeled a carrot to replace the tomato-avocado salad on my daughter’s plate, and then we were all ready to eat. The stove had been used for only 10 minutes and the entire meal took about 30 minutes to make (that includes my gawking-at-the-perfect-avocado time, so it might take even less time if you delete that step). We sat down with our glasses of white wine (water for the kid), and tucked in. 

*Theoretically, you can also heat the cheese in the microwave, which I haven’t tried yet. Once fried or zapped, you can also serve it with a dollop of strawberry jam on top. I think it would be interesting to mix a little Dijon into that strawberry jam, too, top the cheese with that, and have it alongside toasted English muffin bread for breakfast! I will let you know how that goes.

Merie Kirby grew up in California, moved to Minneapolis for grad school, and after getting her MFA stayed for fifteen more years. She now lives in Grand Forks, ND with her husband and daughter. Merie writes poetry and essays, as well as texts in collaboration with composers. She also writes about cooking, reading, parenting, and creating on her own blog, All Cheese Dinner. Her most recurrent dream is of making cookies with her mother. This is an excellent dream.