Possibly all you need to know about me

Knife drawer with half a coconut shell

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.

Layering green tomatoes for a casserole

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.

Boy layering green tomatoes and cheese in a casserole

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.

Ingredients for roasted tomato sauce on a baking pan

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.

Citron melons on a chopping block

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.

Cutting up citron melon

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.

Glass pitcher with citron melon and sugar mixture

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.

Black lab lying on rug in front of kitchen sink

Now, say ‘cheese’.

Black lab Reggie sitting up in the kitchen, waiting for cheesy biscuits

Lucky for him, I wasn’t just pulling his leg for a photo-op.

Cheesy dog biscuits

15 thoughts on “Possibly all you need to know about me

    1. I had a feeling that if I put that out there, I might be building a new level of trust with my favourite readers, so thanks for the confirmation! 🙂 Enjoy the sauce!

  1. No one from outside this family is allowed to see inside my knife drawer, ever – I don’t want anyone to make deep pyschological assumptions based on the quantity of twist ties and corks (yes, me too, but no coconut), and the sheer disorganization in there. Yours, despite the coconut shell, looks so simple, uncluttered, an attractive wooden tray instead of the red plastic tray that was my mothers before it was mine (and looks very 50’s – maybe I’m retro!).
    We just discovered roasted tomatoes this summer – where has my head been all those years of tomatoes – absolutely wonderful dish – we eat them as a side dish, put gratin on top sometimes, and like you, whizz them up to make sauce with the leftovers.
    Lucky dog getting the cheesy biscuits…they look yummy enough for people, though I’m not sure how I’d like chicken flavoured cheese biscuits – maybe if I didn’t know they were for dogs, and they were served as an appetizer? Hmmm…

    1. I must confess to having at least one kitchen drawer that is total chaos and will certainly not be photographing it for public consumption! I just lucked out that the coconut picked a tidy drawer! I love the sound of the red plastic cutlery tray in your kitchen – retro is always good, and nothing new can beat something that was your mother’s!

      I love that we both saw the light this summer and discovered roasted tomatoes; what a life saver, and so yummy, as you say! As for the dog biscuits, my husband – who is a little brave and quite eccentric – has eaten a few and says they are pretty good!!

      1. If those dog biscuits are the same that we make for our dogs, I can tell you that people like them too, although they’re very bland.

      2. They are indeed! Yes, my husband has tried them and will occasionally nibble on one when Reggie is enjoying them.

  2. Oh, those green tomatoes look so delicious! And Reggie is growing…he is one fine looking dog, and the boys must surely love having him around. Are you glad you invited him to be a part of your family?

    1. Thanks Libby! Oh yes, we are so glad to have found Reggie. It was a real adjustment at first, but I have to say that I’m delighted every day that he’s with us, and we have all fallen in love with him.

  3. Dagne, it all looks delicious. And so impressive! How did you make the roasted sauce? Did you slow roast at a lower temperature? Or under the broiler? I must know, as I’m always on the lookout for new tomato sauces. I’m not sure I’ve ever made sauce the exact same way twice!

    1. Thanks Melissa! I tend to roast the veggies on a baking sheet in the middle of a 350 F oven for about 40 minutes (really just until soft, nicely tinged with brown edges, and a bit oozy with the olive oil and whatever else gets tossed in). You could probably speed things up by moving it all under the broiler; I tend to have disasters with the broiler if I’m not watching it every moment, so I prefer a slower roasting method. This is seriously the simplest method I have ever found, because once you’ve prepped the veggies it’s into the oven and forget about it until it’s time to quickly blend and toss onto pasta. You could even skip the blending part if you like chunky roasted tomatoes/veggies and perhaps use goat’s cheese or another soft cheese. I do that too and love it – the trade off being that my children wouldn’t touch it then…:)

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