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Celebrating Summer with Heirloom Tomatoes and Grilled Cheese

On our small Alabama farm, late June and early July are heirloom tomato season. Our garden churns out plump tiger-striped reds, zebra-striped greens, and fat yellow 'maters until the heat kills them—usually by August 1.

I've forgotten the names of the varieties I planted in March, and the cluster of vines and compost have covered over the little plastic hybrid markers. But now that they've started coming in, who cares? The nameless heirlooms are now the stars of our evening meals, along with green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and peas a friend is growing in our pasture.

Here's the beauty of summer produce, whether you grow it or buy it at a farmers' market: It doesn't require substantial effort to eat—in fact, we do very little cooking with what comes from our plot. Tomatoes are chopped to top omelets and salads or sliced for sandwiches—when they make it out of the garden; I have been known to eat them off the vine, tomato juice running down my chin. Likewise with cukes, though some of those go from the vine into gin cocktails. The green beans are blanched or lightly salted and singed—just enough to soften them.

On a recent Friday night, instead of preparing a full meal, I lightly blistered fresh-picked green beans, and added tomato slices to thin slices of raclette, fontina, Gruyère, and aged cheddar on whole-wheat toast—our version of the ultimate grilled-cheese sandwich.

Then we sat, my wife and two kids, on our screened porch as the sun faded and fireflies lit up the garden, talking about food, tomatoes, and green beans.

This is the very best of summer, when the food is so ripe, you spend less time preparing it and more time eating it with your family.

What are you growing and eating? Here are some great Cooking Light recipes to celebrate food from your garden:

Grilled zucchini caprese stacks

Greek tomato and cucumber salad with farro

Heirloom tomato and beet salad

Heirloom tomato and zucchini salad