Restraint is not my strong suit on the weekends. I go to the farmers market with a list... and then impulse buy the prettiest fruit, the most fragrant herbs, maybe a jar of marinated beets or pickled radishes because those free samples are irresistible bait. I get home and dream about all of the things I want to make: big, beautiful grilled salads, summery sheet pan dinners, gorgeous fruit pies and cobblers, pesto and other herby sauces to freeze now and use later.
Then, life happens. Between work and the kids’ activities, there’s not nearly enough time during the week to make a fraction of the things I’ve planned. Suddenly, it’s Tuesday night and that sheet pan dinner I had in mind takes 40 minutes, but we’re tired and hungry and need dinner ASAP.
Enter...toast for dinner. Yes, it might seem a bit light, but with the right toppings, toast can make a satisfying meal. Plus, the effort-to-reward ratio is one of the best I’ve found.
Here’s my current favorite: sweet cherries, earthy beets, basil, and mint piled high on thick slices of ricotta-slathered toast. It’s a toast to eat with big napkins on your laps, not the dainty crostini you make for parties.
I begin with stirring together ricotta, a few glugs of extra-virgin olive oil, and zest from the plumpest lemon I have. I pit a handful of cherries in no time (thanks to my cherry pitter, best unitasker ever), run my knife through some marinated beets from that jar I couldn’t help but buy over the weekend, and combine them in a separate bowl. I pile basil leaves on the board, sprinkle with sea salt, and start chopping. The staccato of the knife hitting my board calms me. I toss the beets and cherries with big pinches of basil salt and juice from that lemon I just zested.
While the beets and cherries are macerating, I fry thick slices of bread in olive oil until they’re crisp and golden on the outside, still a little soft on the inside. It’s my favorite way to make toast.
All that remains is assembly (I’m definitely not going for Instagram-pretty tonight), then straight to the table. Famished, we dig in. The frenzied, hangry rush we felt minutes ago melts away as the crimson juices of cherries and beets spill down our chins and onto our plates. I bring the bowl of extra cherries and beets to the table, spooning out every last bit.
Toast to the rescue!
Beets and cherries are an unexpected yet totally exhilarating duo. I love them so much, I created this simple arugula salad and a main plate salad with them (the Salmon and Beet Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette in Mighty Salads). And now these toasts—a pared down, no less exciting way to go.
If you’re like my kids and still coming around to beets, you can add a few strips of prosciutto or salami to bulk up your toasts. But beet-lover, or not, there are so many reasons to love this dish. I have dinner on the table in about 15 minutes, we all eat well, clean-up is easy, and I make good use of those impulse buys from the weekend. I’ll toast to that any day of the week.
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
- Finely grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup basil
- 3/4 cup sweet cherries, pitted and torn into halves
- 3/4 cup marinated beets (purchased or homemade), chopped roughly the same size as the cherries
- 4 large slices from a loaf of crusty bread (such as ciabatta or sourdough), about 1/2-inch thick
- olive oil, for frying
- 2 tablespoons mint, roughly chopped
What's your best summery no-fuss dinner? Share your favorites in the comments below!