We must be nuts.

We just got back from vacation, and we’ve invited friends for dinner. The fridge is empty, the pantry is a mere whisper of its former self, and we’re nursing a dog that got mauled at the kennel.

Still, we’ve called our friends (and their kids) for an impromptu dinner.

“Are we nuts?” the husband asks.

I guess. But we love, love, love spur-of-the-moment entertaining:

  • Fire up the grill;
  • Crack open some wine (we’re dying to sample the bottles we brought back from North Carolina);
  • Watch the sun set as we eat on the porch.

Thanks to the garden, our vacation catch and a quick trip to the market for berries and stone fruit, the party is ready in 30 (okay, 45) minutes.

We may be nuts, but dinner was great! Here’s how you can do it, too:

The 30- (okay, 45-) Minute Dinner Party

Wahoo steaks topped with a lemon-herb sauce that does double duty as a topping for grilled potatoes.
Wahoo steaks topped with a lemon-herb sauce that does double duty as a topping for grilled potatoes.

On the menu:

  • Grilled wahoo with lemon-herb vinaigrette
  • Grilled new potatoes with lemon-herb vinaigrette
  • Grilled carrots & summer squash tossed with pesto
  • Grilled bread
  • Stone fruit & berries, sliced & tossed in a bowl

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 8 wahoo steaks (keep chilled)
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes
  • 3-4 medium summer squash
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds young carrots (about 4-inches long)
  • 1 loaf French bread
  • Berries, plums & nectarines, sliced and tossed in a bowl
  • 1 cup fresh herbs
  • 2-3 lemons
  • Olive oil
  • Your favorite pesto. (Buy it or make your own. I made mine, throwing in a couple of cups of carrot fronds, as per the suggestion in a food magazine. Don’t bother … they didn’t offer any noticeable carrot flavor.)
The first harvest of blue and red finn potatoes.
Our first harvest of blue and red finn potatoes.

Gather your ingredients. Then …

— 6 p.m.: Scrub potatoes & place in a pot of salted water. Cover pot and bring potatoes to a boil. Boil until tender (15-20 minutes), then drain.

Red & orange carrots from the garden.
Red & orange carrots from the garden.

6:05 p.m.: Clean carrots (I didn’t peel mine because I wanted to keep the brilliant skins of my red carrots.) Bring a second pan of water to a boil. Salt it and add the carrots. Boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the carrots to an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the color.

6:10 p.m.: While the vegetables are cooking, slice the summer squash into 1/8- to 1/4-inch strips. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside.

6:12 p.m.: While the vegetables are cooking, make the lemon-herb vinaigrette: In a food processor or mini-prep, coarsely chop the herbs. Squeeze in the juice of 2-3 lemons (until you have about 1/4 cup of lemon juice). Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Taste, adding more lemon juice or olive oil as needed.

6:17 p.m.: Heat the grill.

6:18 p.m.: While the grill is heating, slice the bread into inch-thick pieces, and slice the warm potatoes into 1/3-inch slices. Keep tiny potatoes whole.

6:20 p.m.: Oil the grill. Place the potatoes, squash and carrots on it. Grill on one side until goldenly seared. Turn and repeat on the other side. (You’ll be turning your carrots more often in order to grill their entire surface.)

carrots cooked
Pesto-tossed carrots & summer squash.

6:25 p.m.: Remove the carrots and squash and toss with your pesto.

Grilled potatoes topped with lemon juice & herbs.
Grilled potatoes topped with lemon & herbs.

6:30 p.m.: Remove the potatoes & toss with half of the lemon-herb vinaigrette.

6:35 p.m.: Re-oil the grill and place the bread on it. Grill for 30-seconds to 1 minute per side. Remove and oil the grill once more.

6:40 p.m.: Remove your wahoo steaks from the refrigerator. Season on both sides with salt & pepper. Using indirect heat, grill the fish for 2 minutes per side. Remove and drizzle with the remaining lemon-herb vinaigrette.

6:45 p.m.: Sit down to dinner! Add a salad of baby lettuces if you’d like. Serve the berries and fruit for dessert.