The weather has turned. Your favorite weeknight spots are littered with children out on summer vacation. Your office has yet to understand how to properly regulate the AC, and the amount of red, white, and blue in the front of your closest Target rivals the inside of Betsy Ross’ sewing kit.
Summer has arrived.
And with it, visions of hot dogs grilled to perfection, watermelon juice dripping down your chin, vaguely anticlimactic fireworks, cheap beer, and rubber flip-flops exposing embarrassingly sunburnt feet.
But what about cheese? Where are the visions of the ooey-gooey good stuff next to you as you bake in the sun? Where is the lifeblood that helped you through the cold indoor months? Often, in the season of SPF and sand, our favorite food gets overlooked. But I’m here to tell you that this atrocious slight to dairy need not go on. This summer, your BBQs and beach days, your picnics and pool lounges, your fruit salads and family vacations, they will include cheese.
In fact, I’m going to show you how to upgrade your summer feasts, course by course, with one magic sprinkle of my cheesy wand…
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cotija
Honestly, is it even really a barbecue if you haven’t spent the three hours prior shucking corn over an old bucket you honestly didn’t even know you had until that morning? The answer is no. It isn’t. Pushing off thoughts of the strings that will be stuck in your teeth for months, you know you need some of the sweet stuff to properly welcome summer. This year, upgrade your corn-on-the-cob game by grilling ‘em up and covering them with garlic butter, fresh lime, and cotija!
Prior to the party, combine butter, garlic, habanero pepper, and chives in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper for an easy homemade garlic butter (to make the summer livin’ easy and the summer breath slightly horrifying—but worth it). Before shucking, throw your cobs onto the grill (lid closed!) for about 15 minutes. After wrestling off the greenery, coat with garlic butter, squeeze on a lime, roll that bad boy in cotija, and bask in the compliments for as long as you can go without taking to the bathroom for a serious one-on-one with some floss.
Many times, the difficult aspect of cheesing up a BBQ is the “ease” factor. Your fingers are slippery with sunscreen and covered in condensation from your beverage of choice. Skip the paper plates and opt for a refreshing skewer of your favorite app: Grab a wooden skewer, pierce through basil leaves, mozzarella balls, and cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. It’s an easy snack to scarf down as you juggle your sunglasses and speaker, and shield your phone from your neighbor’s overzealous cannonball into the shallow end.
Watermelon Feta Salad
Your low-key long weekend hang was just inadvertently upgraded when your neighbors brought their coworkers and your roomie’s whole improv class showed up and oh my god, is that your former dog walker’s best friend’s mother? A watermelon feta salad not only feeds a room, but the “classy” factor is out of this world. Take a deep breath, down your patriotic punch, you’ve got this. Whisk together a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Chop up your watermelon (or buy it pre-cut, we’re not here to judge). Mix your *homemade* dressing, fruit, and a generous helping of feta cheese (add some mint leaves for that extra bougie factor!) and you’re all set to return to your beach chair and pretend you didn’t just see your one-time Tinder date walk in with your old TA from college.
Cheeseburgers and Dogs
What, you thought I would actually have the audacity to suggest skipping the stars of the show? I would never suggest that you miss out on the classics, but what I would recommend is upgrading your meaty treats with cheesy additions. While the grill master is refreshing their beverage, sneak on in and replace those plastic-y singles with some hefty hunks of Monterey Jack or gouda. Even better, try some blue cheese on that patty or add some jalapeño cheddar to that dog to up the spice factor.
Portobello and Goat Cheese
Two hours to the big backyard party and you realize that, this month, half of your friends are temporarily vegetarians. While the standard burgers and dogs won’t be an option, that doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on the grilling festivities. Stock your shelves with portobello mushrooms to throw down (before the burgers!) and char up. Get some serious host points when you serve them up to your friends topped with grilled tomatoes and smeared with sweet goat cheese, sending even the most outspoken of carnivores into veggie BBQ bliss.
Grilled Peaches with Burrata
You underestimate me, dear reader, if you thought I couldn’t get cheese into every course of your summer celebration. One of my go-to grilling greats is always best saved for dessert. If you haven’t tried grilling peaches, honestly, I don’t even know why you’re still sitting there reading this article. GO. FIND A GRILL. ACQUIRE PEACHES. GET BACK TO ME THEN. (Did you go? You probably didn’t go.
Whatever, you’ll understand soon.) After the lightning bugs have started making their entrance and the floaties have been abandoned in the corner of the pool, it is officially time for dessert. Cut those peaches in half, throw them down on the grill, and wait about 5 minutes, or until they appear properly scorched. Plate them up with some burrata and drizzle in honey for a perfectly sweet after-dinner treat.
Okay, so you’ve read through all my suggestions and you’re on board for a cheesier summer. Or, possibly, you’ve already done all of these recipes and just came here for an excuse to straight up grill that cheese. (Honestly, I get it.) So if you’re looking for the hard stuff (or semi-hard, rather), look no further. Head to the grocery store and pick up a package of halloumi. Hurry home, slice it up, brush it with olive oil, stab a skewer in there, and your perfect summer cheese is ready for the grill.
So there you have it. Summer diets need not omit our delicious staple. The days are hazier, the living is lazier, the beer is cold, and the cheese is still tantalizing—it doesn’t get better than this. Really though, it doesn’t, because in like four days it’ll be 103 degrees out and you’ll be begging for another Polar Vortex, so enjoy your summer bliss while it lasts!