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Roast those last tomatoes for an easy, delicious galette

Recipe: Flexible recipe uses cheese, pre-made crust

They're late in the season but still delicious: Juliet tomatoes, ready for roasting.

They're late in the season but still delicious: Juliet tomatoes, ready for roasting. Kathy Morrison

The tomato plants are disappearing from the community garden I belong to. One here, one there, then whole plots of them -- their luscious fruits now canned or frozen or just memory. It's nearly fall, and many gardeners are done with summer.

Roasted red tomatoes on a pan
Roasting concentrates the tomato flavor.

Of course the heat wave killed off many summer vegetable plants, and in others it halted the will to reproduce. Still, some of us stubbornly keep our plants in place. How could I tear out something that looks so healthy? For now, the Juliet tomato plant survives, along with a few others, and I get to enjoy her meaty tomatoes that are even more precious now that they are dwindling.

The recipe here is an excellent way to use any late-summer veggies. And thank goodness the weather has cooled down, because roasting the veggies first is a must, to concentrate the flavors and let the excess liquid cook off.

Use what you have: zucchini, peppers, eggplant, scallions, garlic -- and of course tomatoes. The cheese and herbs are also flexible: Goat cheese or Gruyere instead of mozzarella, for example, and thyme or oregano instead of basil. I included a cup of cubed rotisserie chicken, because I had it, but that is optional.

Roasted summer vegetable galette

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 to 6 cups summer vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchini or peppers, halved or cut into 1-inch pieces

Olive oil

1 premade refrigerated pastry crust, allowed to sit out at room temperature for a few minutes

1 cup cubed cooked chicken or ham (optional)

3 or 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced

4 ounces fresh mozzarella or other soft or semi-soft cheese, such as goat cheese or grated Gruyere

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried herbs

Salt

Freshly grated black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

Water or cream for brushing crust, optional

Instructions:

Basil and cheese on a pastry round
Scatter the cheese and basil on the pastry.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the tomatoes and/or other veggies on a quarter-sheet baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over it, and stir, making sure all the veggies get a little. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Some brown is fine.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Some of the veggies may give off a lot of liquid. Pour that off and discard or use it to make vegetable broth.

When the veggies are mostly cool, scrape them into a large measuring cup. You should have at least 3 cups of roasted vegetables. (You may need to pour out more liquid here.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Unroll the premade pastry onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If the pastry is getting too soft to work with, pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes. In a large bowl, combine the veggies, the scallions, the chicken or ham (if using), and salt and pepper to taste.

Distribute the basil and dabs of fresh mozzarella (or whatever you're using) over the pastry round, leaving about 1-1/2 inches open around the edge. Mound the galette filling over the herbs and cheese.

Fold the pastry edge up, pleating it as you go. This is a rustic tart, so don't worry about perfection.

Tomato galette with golden crust
The galette has a golden crust and savory filling.

Sprinkle some Parmesan over the filling. If desired, brush the crust edges with water or cream.

Bake 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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