My knife drawer would not have impressed Julia Child, I’m afraid. Fully half of its available space is taken up by corks, bottle caps and – yes, really – half a coconut shell. I don’t normally notice any of this, in truth, but tonight I could not open the drawer, which is when the coconut shell thrust its existence under my nose (so to speak). Why that half shell is in my knife drawer, I couldn’t say, though I do remember why it’s in my kitchen. We bought a full coconut at the market last year after watching Cast Away with our boys, so they could have the experience of opening one. And now I keep running into one half of the shell in my kitchen.
Kind of like how I run into my children or husband in the kitchen, when they dare, particularly at this time of year when the island is littered with things from the garden demanding attention, sooner or never. All those green tomatoes. Two little red cabbages. A bunch of squashes that I’m curing before moving down to the cold storage. Bags from the local farmers’ market (which reminds me, I still have beets to boil up!). Along with the usual paraphernalia of family life, which drives me crazy.
Not in the mood to do any preserving in recent days, I made a dent in the remaining green tomatoes with a casserole layering tomatoes, breadcrumbs and cheese.
This was one of those moments when youngest son decided that he’d just love to help out. I’ve learned that a lot of planning just doesn’t work with this boy; I need to grab him when the moment strikes. Even when that moment comes AFTER the boring prep work and he gets to swoop in for the fun of assembling a dish.
The resulting casserole was rather good, although allowing my son to put on the top layer of cheese before putting it in the oven for an hour (rather than waiting for the final five minutes), meant that I had a very brown-looking casserole when it was done. It was still tasty, mind you, and didn’t involve two hours in a steam-filled kitchen.
My waiting game is resulting in more ripe tomatoes, of course, so at least I don’t feel that I’m waging a losing battle on that front. Roasted tomato sauce has saved my behind on more than one evening this season (most notably the late night we spent finishing off the chickens’ enclosure some weeks ago), and I’m wondering why it took me so long to get switched on to this method. As easy as a slow cooker, but so full of flavour from the roasting process, not to mention much faster of course. I’ve been mixing up combinations of tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots (sometimes), and fresh herbs from the garden (basil or oregano), splashes of olive oil, salt and papper, with great results each and every time. A quick whirl in the Cuisinart, and it’s an instant meal on pasta.
I’ve had a couple of ‘epic fails’, as my older son would call them, in the past month, including blueberry-jam-turned-kind-of-caramel when I got sidetracked overseeing my youngest with his math homework and overcooked the lot. I know better, which is the worst part of the experience. This very evening I nearly did the same with a small, experimental batch of preserves made from those little citron melons we grew for the first time this year.
Two nights ago I decided to finally seek out some information on the ground-growing citron melon, an oddball that actually needs to be cooked before it can be eaten. I highly recommend the informational page that I’ve linked to here, which explains that the Bedouin find this melon most useful as a fire lighter. That really inspired confidence in me when I took that fact in, but I soldiered on, figuring I’d give one of the preserving methods a shot.
Peeling them was fun, as they reveal a green flesh and mature pink seeds – sort of a reverse watermelon.
I ended up with about a pound of the melon’s flesh after seeding it, and threw that together with a pound of sugar (gasp, I know!) in a glass pitcher with a lid.
I was supposed to then bring it to a gentle boil with an indeterminate amount of thinly sliced lemon and cook it for several hours until reduced to a yellowish liquid at the end of the process last night. Not in the mood or failing to remember, I left it until tonight to do something with the sugar-melon mixture. Things started out well enough, and I had the sense with such a small batch it wasn’t going to take as long, but I think I hurried things along a little too much, and there was a distinct odour of caramelization in the kitchen and the mixture in the pot looked more amber than yellow.
It tastes a lot like a bitter marmalade and could be said to be rather appealing to the right sort of palate (like my husband’s, thankfully). So, that’s it for our little citron melon experiment for this year. Not sure I’ll pursue this one next year – unless I’m feeling desperate for fire lighters.
Now, I do love an evening when a meal seems to throw itself together with minimal effort and tasty elements. Last night was sausage night, a staple that I know my (picky) younger son will eat, and I started pulling together companion dishes, including mashed potatoes (I believe it’s nearly criminal to have sausages without mash, and that must be down to 17 years of marriage to a Brit), red cabbage (quickly parboiled then sauteed in a bit of butter and seasoned), a really yummy and totally different citrus radish confit that I found on the BBC website and had made up the night before just before going to bed, and some green beans.
In the habit of starting to cook or bake late at night, last evening I made up a batch of Cheesy Dog Biscuits courtesy of Libby at Green Pocket Protector. I knew these would be a winner, as you only have to say ‘cheese’ to get this dog’s attention, and they’ve quickly become a staple for this young dog.
Here he is, the latest family member to make my kitchen more complicated to navigate.
Now, say ‘cheese’.
Lucky for him, I wasn’t just pulling his leg for a photo-op.