Sweet, sweet summertime.

After many long months of dreaming about, planning, preparing, babying, and whispering to my vegetable garden, the time is finally here. Tomatoes, that high-priestest of summer bounty, are at full-tilt.

It’s a shame, really. I have been wishing away all these summer days until I picked that first tomato. And now that I can fully appreciate summer with all my senses, it’s almost over. I still have many, many more green ones on the plants, but I am steadily picking the ripe ones these days. I was away for a work conference last week, and almost couldn’t wait to get home to see what was ready to pick.

Here’s what I picked Friday evening:

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a fresh-picked tomato. Especially one that you lovingly started from seed back in the first week of March. There were several roma and cherry tomatoes, three cucumbers (one of which was HUGE and probably was on the vine too long), and I picked all my swiss chard and carrots. The carrots are Danver’s Half Long.  
Switching gears a bit, Saturday for dinner, I made this, which was AMAZING.

These are Eye of the Goat beans from Rancho Gordo in Napa, California. When I was in California last year, we stopped by this place after I’d read about it. It is a shop that specializes in heirloom beans. Can you imagine? A shop dedicated to heirloom beans? You read it hear first. This place is worth a gander. We bought up a bunch when we were in California, and this spring I ordered some from the website. My mom LOVES their quinoa. It’s funny how I can detect subtle differences in the different varieties of beans that I’ve tried from this store. I made these very simply by putting them in a crock pot with half a diced onion and three pieces of bacon. Then I just barely covered them with water and added about 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock. That is it. When they’re finished, I put about 1 teaspoon of salt and some pepper in.
And, I’ve decided I make pretty damn good cornbread. Not to brag, but I’m a rock star when it comes to cornbread. Biscuits? Notsamuch. In my opinion, there are just a couple secrets to making rock star cornbread. 1) A really good iron skillet, that you 2) put a dab of canola oil in and put in the oven to pre-heat while you mix up the cornbread, which 3) you should be using really good quality cornmeal for. I get my cornmeal from Reed’s Mill Flours in Monroe County. It’s stone-ground by a grist mill. And it’s made from open-pollinated corn. Open-pollinated corn, people! I don’t expect anyone to be as excited about this as I am, but let me tell you this cornmeal is special. That is all you need to know. (I couldn’t find a wiki article for open pollinated corn, so if you must know more about this special cornmeal, it is made from corn seeds that are heirloom, non-hybrid, and rely on birds and insects for pollination. Corn is naturally difficult to pollinate because of a number of factors, including it’s structure, how it’s typically grown, etc. And open-pollinated corn is also susceptible to insects and fungi. Basically, these corn plants have beat substantial odds to produce actual corn. There. Just in case you’re ever on jeopardy or something…)

Anywho… I really needed to use that swiss chard up soon, so to go with my amazing humble beans and cornbread dinner on Saturday, I made wilted swiss chard. I adapted this recipe from Marthastewart.com, which was super easy.

Bacon and Garlic Wilted Swiss Chard
(who doesn’t love bacon and garlic and anything)

1 small bunch of swiss chard (about 2 dozen medium-sized pieces)
1 piece of bacon
2 cloves garlic
1 – 2 tsp bacon grease
1 Tb water

Chop the bacon into tiny pieces and throw into a skillet on medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until fat begins to render and bacon begins to get translucent. Thinly slice the two garlic cloves, a ‘la razor blade in “Goodfellas.” But you don’t have to actually use a razor blade. I knife will work fine, just slice it very thinly. That’s what I did. Add the garlic to the skillet. Saute garlic until it begins to smell amazing and turns golden, stirring frequently. Remove the bacon and garlic from the skillet and set aside. Add the rest of the bacon grease and turn skillet to medium low heat. Remove the stalks from the leaves of the swiss chard and chop them into bite size pieces. Add to skillet and cover while you chop the leaves into 1 inch strips. Check the stalks to see if they are getting soft, and saute a couple more minutes if they need to soften. Add the leaves and stir to coat with the bacon grease. Turn the heat to low, add about 1 Tb water and cover. Cook until leaves are, well, wilted. About 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon and garlic back to the skillet and stir to mix.

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