Pole Beans, Tomatoes, Ripe Peppers…Oh My (and it isn’t even September yet)

yellow vegetables squash corn beans

The old fashioned crookneck squash and Gold of Bacu beans are from our garden; the corn’s from the farmstand up the road and the vanilla butter* is the touch that turns them from yellow vegetables into winter joy.

Official Kitchen Garden Day was August 22, but at the time I was too busy planting fall crops, harvesting the everlasting beans and squash, canning roasted tomatoes and making plum jam to do any live-blogging, and yesterday was much the same except for an evening pizza party with freshly picked peppers, tomatoes and basil and the whole family around the outdoor oven.

If you actually have a kitchen garden, every day is Kitchen Garden Day – that’s the whole point. All spring, summer and fall, you plant and eat. All winter, you eat and plan for next year.

Late summer is still planting territory: on Kitchen Garden Day I put in 3 kinds of radicchio, some cold tolerant lettuces, including Winter Density and Merveille des Quatres Saisons, and an assortment of kales. Next week, when Bill goes down to the Hudson Valley to harvest the first batch of Black Mexican corn, he’ll plant broccoli raab – and radicchio, lettuce, and kale.

Meanwhile, the beets and chard we planted in mid July are coming along splendidly, as are the scallions, dill and cilantro. Parsley, sorrel, and lovage are perking up now that it’s not quite so hot.

I will spare you the rest of the list. Suffice it to say that what with this and what with that, we’ll have plenty of fresh things to pick right up until Christmas or nearabouts, while in the meantime and going forward the freezer will be providing us with things like pasta sauce, minestrone and harvest stew, as well as that vanilla gold mélange and nearly-instant zucchini tortilla.

zucchini tortilla/savory cake

Zucchini Tortilla. Savory, egg-bound cakes and pancakes based on shredded summer squash are with good reason all the rage these days. Be sure to freeze enough of the squash part so you can have some at the Solstice holidays.

Also there’s the winter squash and potatoes and canned stuff and…

The price of all this great local provender is gratifyingly low in dollars but fairly high in time, especially  right now when there’s a lot of picking and processing on top of everything else. And after all that cooking you often don’t feel like cooking. The answer?

DECONSTRUCTED BLTS (Panzanella, look to your laurels)

I feel strongly about the construction of a proper BLT, but have to confess there’s a lot to be said for making a salad in the Mediterranean mode instead of going for the more conventional construction.

That’s mode, not ingredients; for this particular sandwich the components are both sacrosanct and American. Only one transgression – the bread. For success with the salad you want slightly stale ciabatta or something similarly crusty, chewy and non BLT-ish.

Cut the bread into roughly 1 inch chunks. Cut some dead-ripe super juicy tomatoes into chunks a bit larger than the bread. Add a generous glump of Hellman’s mayo and mix. Let sit for 10 minutes, give or take, long enough for the bread to absorb most of the free tomato juice but not so long it gets disagreeably soggy. Right before serving, stir in chopped lettuce and plenty of crumbled bacon.

* Vanilla butter:

Melt ½ lb unsalted butter over very low heat. Split a vanilla bean, scrape in the seeds, then cut the pod into 1 inch lengths and add it too. Cook – or rather don’t cook, just keep hot – for about half an hour.

Remove pod pieces. Let the butter solids settle, then pour the now-clarified vanilla butter into a sterilized jar, where it will keep for about a month. Use a seasoning/garnish, not a cooking medium, with vegetables, chanterelles, shellfish, pancakes…

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