Sombreuil Climbing Rose 1850

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tribute to a Grower's Best Friends

February 8, 2011
Seen during the marathon rose pruning day... a Lady Bug in the lavender
among my favorite residents.   Usually I have to buy them at the nursery but this one just dropped in on it's own acord.  Perhaps a refuge from the neighbors?  The winged adults don't stay for long but if they have laid eggs and there is food for them, their babies stay around for a bit.   Their larvae eat the never welcome aphids.

Here Toadie, Toadie!  There's a cool dark home with an open door for you.

This bee skep replica is intended to contain a hose or encourage toads to make their home here.  When the summer monsoons come we have toads that hybernate in the soil come up and tease our dogs.  But we welcome them and their voracious appetite for non-beneficial insects.  Another reason we don't use anything that poisons insects because it may poison the toads and all on up the food chain.

Bees!  Yes Bees!  They are my constant companions in the gardens.  I love having them around.  It is confirmation that my gardens are healthy.  If the bees aren't here to polinate we don't have our fruits, flowers and veggies.  Bees deserve our respect and protection.  This means planting varied bloomers, something for every season here in our low desert.  It also means taking care when eliminating pests not to use means that eliminate the bees as well.  For us we only use hoses, beneficial insects and biodegradable organics.
This little bee skep hangs near a hummingbird feeder.  Who knows, even a hummer might decide to take up housekeeping.  "It could happen."  Hummers, as they dance from bloom to bloom, collecting nectar, also pollinate for us.  We welcome hummers daily with added food for times when blooms are less common.  Your hummingbird feeders do not need added red dye.  They do need to be changed frequently in warm weather to avoid bacterial growth that could harm these sweet tiny birds.

And this skep sits next to one of our prolific kumquat trees.  If you don't have a kumquat yet I highly recommend them.  Their small size means anyone can grow them.  We keep them by the kitchen door so that every time we go in or out we pop a bite size snack in the pie hole.  Kumquats are eaten whole, skin and all!  They can be a bit tart but are sweet as well.

Simply Roasted Summer Veggie Lasagna

Summer squash, pepper and eggplant abundance in your garden got you down Bunky? Missed another squash when you were out picking and now it is no longer a "baby" veggie but a baby whale. Well here are two ways I deal.

Serves 6-12 as side - main


1 Golden Squash ~12"  (several small also do)

1 Zucchini Squash~12"  (several small also do)

1 Egg plant ~12"  (several small do)

1 Onion medium or large epending on your taste

1 Red Pepper

Fresh Basil leaves - a large bunch

6 shallots

Tomato ~10 or so medium to large

Garlic - 6-12 medium cloves

Olive Oil



Mushrooms especially portabella and crimini

Cheese - your choice I like a hard cheese like Asiago or Parmasean if the cheese is going on the top.  Otherwise some ricotta or Mozerella is nice in the layers.

Herbs of choice oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, chervil, tarragon; mix to create about a tablespoon of dried herbs

All ingredients are approximate! And no you didn't miss an ingredient.  There are no noodles in this lasagna.  The veggies are layered as a pasta would be. The point of this recipe is to use the bounty that you have in a most tasty and easy way. The roasted tomatoes, and peppers really come through without too much else to interfere. Use the herbs you like but no need to be heavy handed with them.  Basil is in season with these vegetables so I especially like to use large basil leaves ~6 on top of each of about 3-4 layers of the vegetables.

Slice squashes lengthwise about ~1/4-1/2" thick

Slice tomatoes ~1/4" thick

Slice onion and shallots thinly

Slice peppers ~1/4", don't worry about removing ribs or seeds

Mushrooms leave whole for meaty texture, slice for less meatiness

Peel garlic, no need to chop, the roasting sweeten the garlic

Pull basil leaves off of the stem

A heavy 13" x 8" casserole pan works well for this quantity of veggies.

Begin layering with olive oil drizzled on the bottom.  Marinara sauce can be substituted.  The purpose is simply to prevent the bottom from sticking.  Then the onion layer, then each vegetable one at a time into a casserole, ending with a layer of tomatoes over garlic, drizzled again with olive oil. Salt, pepper and a bit of herbs on each layer.  Don't worry if your pan is very full, you need to build it up over the top; the veggies shrink down to about 1/2 the original bulk.  The photo shows the lasagne at it's half way point ~45 minutes of baking.  Note the zucchinis are sliced lengthwise.  Even the pepper are simply cut at the rib.

Since it is summer do not preheat oven, just set it for 400-450 degrees after the prep is finished. This recipe can also be baked on the grill if you don't want to heat the house. Another alternative is to bake it at night.

When oven reaches temperature slide the veggie laden pan in for 45 minutes. At the appointed time take the pan out of the oven and press everything down with a spatula. This presses juices, not flavor, out of the water filled veggies. This will allow the juices to evaporate more quickly which allows the flavor to concentrate.

Slide the pan back into the oven for about more 45 minutes. Timing will depend on the quantity of veggies and the amount of water in them (the fresher, the more water) and the heat of your oven. After the second 45 minute round I turned my oven off; there were still some juices on the bottom of the pan. I left the pan in the oven to finish roasting the veggies as the oven cooled.

Serve these veggies hot from the oven, room temp or chilled...it's all good! If served hot and you want to up the heft add some shredded cheese, room temp ricotta, pine nuts or pistachios. If serving chilled consider a drizzle of balsamic vinegar but it is out of this world without.

Bake this with basil leaves scattered about mid levels.  If you still have fresh sweet corn strip some cobs and added those sweet kernels.

Because the point was to use up some excess garden bounty I made enough to freeze. Can't wait to pull this out in November and have it with pumpkin muffins.

A rustic bread with herbed butter, crisp salad with a light vinaigrette and chilled white wine sangria are not necessary with this meal but certainly could make it even more supreme.

Here's to the hardy folks who have a summer veggie garden in the desert! And those who make use of their bounty.  Happy summer.