Friday, June 15, 2012

Growing Your Own Herbs - Summer in the Garden

Living in a desert community presents many challenges when it involves trying to grow a garden.  There is the ever-present relentless sun, the water restrictions, the soil conditions and searing heat. My day usually begins about 5:30 AM while the temperatures are moderately cool but by 10:30 AM it is time to return to the air conditioning. Actually today our temperature is expected to cool somewhat with a high of only104 f.

Regardless of the challenges, I find experimenting with various herbs and vegetables placed in different locations in the garden, hoping to find the best places for each of the varieties to grow, is part of the everyday challenge.  Failure, disappointment and success are all words (and emotions) I have become familiar with through the years. But the very promise of a new growing season is in itself exhilarating. I do however, have (as they say in Las Vegas), an “ace up my sleeve” by having a small portable green house that allows me the convenience of being able to start many of my seedlings under cover until they reach the transplant stage. I will post a separate blog with pictures of my green house and a few herbs.

As some of my early spring vegetables have now reached maturity I thought of one of my old favorite recipes, Ratatouille. Having made my dish and finding I had created more leftovers, I decided to use the extra ratatouille in another casserole I have dubbed “ratatouille stuffed manicotti”. It is a simple recipe and as it turned out, a good way to rid my leftover ratatouille.

Ratatouille Stuffed Manicotti

4- tubes  Manicotti Pasta
¼ cup Feta cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese-shredded (sub.Cheddar, Mozzarella, Swiss, your choice)
1 jar Pasta sauce

FILLING:  Ratatouille (see below for filling recipe)

METHOD:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drop manicotti tubes in hot water for a few minutes to soften. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from hot water and place either on parchment paper, foil, or wax paper to cool. Do not use paper towels as the manicotti will adhere and create a situation you do not want to deal with. Meanwhile, grease an ovenproof casserole dish and set aside.

Begin to gently fill the now cooled Manicotti tubes with ratatouille being careful not to split the tubes, place the Manicotti in the greased casserole dish, pour the pasta sauce over the manicotti, sprinkle with the cheese(s) of your choice, bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serves 2

Please note - this is a full recipe serving 4 - the above recipe was made from leftovers


1 ¾ cups Diced eggplant, peeled, salted, drained
2 T Olive oil
½ cup Sliced onions
2 cloves Garlic , crushed
1 Red pepper, julienned
1 ½ cups Zucchini 1/2 “ slices   
1 cup Tomatoes, skinned, ¼’d         
1 tsp Oregano
8 leaves Fresh basil, chiffonade or chopped
Shredded cheese, optional  

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees.
Select individual casseroles, coat with spray or butter, set aside.

In a 10” sauté pan add 2-3 T. olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are just turning color, careful not to burn the garlic. Add peppers, zucchini and tomatoes. Stir while cooking for a few minutes.  Add drained eggplant, sprinkle with olive oil. Add more olive oil if necessary. Add oregano, basil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Transfer contents to individual casseroles, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes.