Friday, March 4, 2016

Garden Planning & Delicious Winter Greens Lasagna

The Blog:  Garden Planning and Delicious Winter Greens Lasagna 

These few warm days have been just enough to send me into full on garden planning mode.  I have pulled all of my notes out from the past few years and, as usual, have started planning by promising myself that I will stick to growing the tried and true things that we really like, with maybe one “experiment” or maybe two. 

Then I dive into the catalogs and my reserve weakens.  “A new Heirloom something or other has been discovered??”  “Don’t we really need Tomatillos?”  “Maybe this will be the year that I’ll be successful with that; it looks so good! I should try it one more time . . .”.

Yes, I need someone to talk me down.  In my fantasies I have unlimited space - or think I can create it where it doesn’t exist, which I think I actually have done somewhat, but any more would ruin our little garden escape by overcrowding it.

So, after a first run through of notes and catalogs and articles, I generally start editing in a reasonable fashion.  I’ve learned a lot over the past 4 years of serious growing, so I am hoping that my decisions will yield lots of success.  My pepper habit shows no sign of waning - and it shouldn’t.  We have a lot of success with peppers. I have to have eggplant and okra growing.  The same with a couple bushes of cherry tomatoes.  They are the gardener’s “treat” while working, so one or two types is absolutely necessary.  We eat a lot of salad greens of all sorts, including arugula. The same for hardy greens and beans as well.  I always enjoying growing a bit of garlic and I must have a small plot of potatoes - just because they are so delicious when cooked at harvesting.  Cucumbers are a big deal with us - we love to eat them a number of ways, use them in cocktails and in making lots of pickles.  I have my fingers crossed that the strawberries and blue berries really take hold this year - we went through a lot of jam over the winter.   And, of course, we grow lots and lots of herbs.  I have learned over time what herbs make sense for the way we cook and eat, and what are just going to take up much needed space.

But then, It is time for the Philadelphia Flower Show - so all reserve may be thrown to the wind! 
I would love to hear what you all are planting and if you are, in fact, in planning mode right now or waiting a bit - like a sane person!  Share your garden ideas.

Recipe:  Winter Greens Lasagna (adapted from Chowhound)

This is so scrumptious and satisfying, no one will even miss the traditional  meat filling.  The trick we have found in making this a few times is to use a nice mix of hardy greens (happily we have a freezer full) and also use fresh lasagna noodles.  The original recipe called for “no cook” noodles - which neither of us like.  Buying or making sheets of fresh pasta and just cutting it yourself works perfectly in creating a light and delicious lasagna. You can of course buy dried lasagna noodles, cook them and set them aside, but fresh pasta is really the best.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, medium dice
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 pound of kale (whatever you like, red is good), washed and coarsely chopped - you can remove the stems if they seem to large; we usually don’t remove stems from greens, there are lots of nutrients and flavor there! You should have about 5 cups.
1 pound of swiss chard, washed and coarsely chopped. You should have about 8 cups.
1/2 pound of Lacinato (black kale), washed and coarsely chopped. You should have about 5 cups.

Note:  the point is to use about 18 or cups of chopped hearty greens.  Whatever you have on hand or what’s available - and what you like - will make a delicious lasagna.

1 3/4 cups of creme fraiche.
Freshly cut, uncooked lasagna noodles or a 9 oz box of “no cook” noodles or cooked fresh noodles
1 pound of whole milk fresh ricotta
2 cups of finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 5 oz)


Heat your oven to 400 degrees, set a rack in the middle of the oven.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When the oil shimmers add the onion and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and cook the mixture until soft, stir occasionally.  This will take about 5 minutes.

Add the cream to the pot along with a few handfuls of the greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly wilted.  Keep adding greens a little at a time until they are all slightly wilted - and coated in the cream. This will take about 10 minutes. Season the creamy greens with salt and pepper and remove the pot from the heat.

Spread 1 cup of the creme fraiche evenly over the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish.  Cover that layer with a layer of 4 lasagna noodles. The noodles should overlap a little. Use a slotted spoon and scoop 1/3 of the greens mixture from the cream and evenly spread it over the noodles, then cover the greens with a third of the fresh ricotta and a quarter of the parmesan.  Repeat this process for two more layers and end with a final layers of lasagna noodles on top.  Pour 1/4 cup of the warm cream evenly over the noodles.  Mix the remaining creme fraiche and parmesan together and spread that evenly over the top.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake until bubbling and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned completely and the sauce is bubbling. This will take about 10 minutes more.

Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  


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