Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


A few weeks ago, just before I thought I had lost all of my previous posts on Clearblogs, I had an idea that maybe I would start posting “The Best of Mel’s Diner”.  There’s a lot of great posts on my old blog (if I do say so myself, and I shouldn’t) and I’d like people to see some of the old recipes that are just plain good.

So, the first post to make “The Best of…”is Fire and Ice Salsa.  Last weekend, I bought a watermelon (a small one) and made this outrageous salsa for my friends at work.  To a man (and woman), they loved it.  I even was asked for the recipe (complicated as it is) several times.

Fire and Ice Salsa

  • 3 cups of watermelon in small cubes
  • 2 or more fresh jalapenos
  • 2 Tablespoons of green or white onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh, chopped cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced.
  • Salt

Combine everything in a bowl and mix well.  Chill before serving.


On a not so old best of recipe, I made Nigella’s beef stew tonight and boy, oh boy it’s good.  This recipe (ironically, the failed one) is still the number one visited page on Mel’s Diner.


May 31, 2008 Posted by | Best Of...., Recipe | 2 Comments


I am so excited I get to host Sara’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge again!  After the last debacle, the last disaster, the last Urkel-age I inflicted upon her happy little world, it’s an honor, nay, a gift to be back.

As summer starts to rear it’s ugly, hot, sweaty…I mean, beautiful and happy face again, what better theme then salads?  I’m not talking just the lettuce, cucumber, tomato, etc. kind, were talking all kinds of salads!  Composed salads like the famous Waldorf, pasta salads like…well, pasta salads, the 1950’s favorite Jell-O salads and every other kind of salad you can think of!  Cool off as the nightmarish heat of summer descends upon us like the fire’s of Hell, I mean as the weather warms. 

So on or before June 29th, send me:

  • A link to your post
  • A picture of your salad
  • Your name



May 28, 2008 Posted by | Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 1 Comment


Wow – a double here.  It’s been OVER A WEEK since I posted and my reasons/excuses run the same gamut Jake Blues (John Belushi) gave the jilted lover (Carrie Fisher) in The Blues Brothers:

“I ran outta gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from outta town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locust’s. It wasn’t my fault!! I swear to God!!”

And just as truthful, too.

And secondly, I’m squeaking in just under the wire for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge.  It’s so late, I was even taunted by the lovely and gracious Sara about it.  Deservedly so, mind you, considering I am the host of next month’s challenge!

Yesterday, while watching Jamie At Home, I suddenly remembered I hadn’t submitted an entry, heck, I hadn’t even THOUGHT of an entry!  So, as I turned to the TV screen, Jamie started a Rhubarb Marinated Pork and I said, “OK, Rhubarb Marinated Pork it is!”

Of course, the Food Network DIDN’T post this recipe, but I managed to find a link to it on Jamie’s site, in the forum section.  Jamie uses pork belly in the recipe because he likes the layers.  I didn’t have any pork belly, but I did have some pig jowl, which is much like pork belly, so I used that.

Rhubarb and Crispy Pork

Wet Stuff:

  • 1 pound rhubarb
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 fresh red chilie, chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp five spice
  • thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

Not wet stuff: 

  • 2 pounds of pork belly or jowl, cut into cubes.
  • Vegetable oil
  • Diced red chilies
  • Diced green onions
  • Cooked noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all the wet stuff ingredients in a food processor and whiz up until juicy, then add ½ cup of water.  

Put pork in an oven safe dish (and one you can put on the stove if possible, if not, don’t fret) with wet stuff and cook in oven for 90 minutes, watching for boil over.

After dish comes out of oven, remove pork with a slotted spoon.  Cook remaining marinade for a few minutes to reduce, skimming fat, if possible, to thicken.  Set aside. 

Heat oil in sauté pan and brown pork in batches.  It browns quickly because of the honey, so don’t walk to far away. 

Serve pork and sauce over noodles, garnished with chilies and green onions, if desired.

Now, after the pork came out of the oven, I though it was going to be pretty disgusting.  Pork jowl and belly are very fatty* and I had these big, ole’ hunks of pork fat facing me.  Well, I soldiered on, not even bothering to make noodles and took one for the team, only to find out it was really good!  Now, it’s definitely a modern take on a very old dish, but that’s part of it’s charm.  Eating  hunks of fried pork fat is encoded in our genes and I immediately understood I was eating as my ancestors did.  In my last WCC entry, I made a hundred year old baked bean recipe and commented on how the beans were there to compliment the salt pork, not the other way around and this is very similar.  You can’t eat a lot of this pork and getting 2/3 of the women today to even entertain the idea is ludicrous, but that doesn’t make it bad. 

Go Jamie!


May 25, 2008 Posted by | Pork, Recipe, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 6 Comments


I know..I know…We’ve all heard the old joke,  “How can you tell the tourists in a Spanish bar?  They’re the one’s drinking Sangria”.  Yeah, yeah – Sangria is the low brow, touristy, non-authentic, only-dumb-asses-drink-it beverage of the lower classes.  I’ve heard it all.

But I don’t care.

I remember the hot summer two years ago (or was it three?) when a good friend and I were working on my basement and his wife came over and we jokingly said, “Make us some Sangria!” 

Damned if she didn’t. 

She should have walked away and left us to some warm diet Coke. But, fine lady that she is, she came back with some ice cold Sangria.

Oh, man……it was good.

So the first warm day of the year, I made some – and oh, man… was good.

Mike’s Sangria

  • 1/8 cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 bottle, cheap, unoaked red wine
  • ½ cup orange liquor
  • ¼ cup of brandy
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 orange, sliced thinly
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • Club soda

In a glass pitcher, add sugar.  Add hot water and stir until blended.  Add liquor, brandy, wine, lime juice, orange and lemon slices.  Stir and chill.  Serve in glasses, 2/3 Sangria to 1/3 club soda, over ice with orange wedge.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Recipe | 4 Comments


Does that say Presto Pasta Night?  Yes, Mike has finally made it back to Presto Pasta Night.  I haven’t come back with something so remarkable and special that it warrants such a long absence.  That being said, it was still pretty good, so here goes.

Mike’s Goulashy-Type Dish

(In Southern New Hampshire, Goulash is called, for reasons unknown, “American Chop Suey”.  It makes as much sense as calling it “Canada” or perhaps, “American Mary Poppins”.  I refuse to address it.)
  • 1 Pound of Hamburger
  • 1 Chopped Onion
  • 1 Chopped Green Pepper
  • 1 can Whole Tomatoes, crushed
  • ¾ Tbls. Paprika
  • Grated Parmesan
  • ½ pound Macaroni, cooked

Start to brown hamburger and add onions and peppers to cook together.  When hamburger is cooked and onion and peppers are soft, crush tomatoes by hand and add with salt and pepper.  Cook for five minutes, add paprika and cook down until thickened.  Add cheese and cooked macaroni.  Warm and adjust seasoning, including cheese. 



It’s really simple, good for a weeknight and pretty tasty.  It’s not winning Michelin stars or James Beard awards, but it is good.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Pasta, Presto Pasta Night, Recipe | 1 Comment


As some of you know, I used to have a blog hosted by another site – Clearblogs.  In January, I jumped ship to WordPress because Clearblogs was just not cutting it for me.  Well, it seems I made the right choice.  Tracking back to my old site, I found the clearblogs domain was gone and parked free, courtesy of

What this does mean is that all of my old posts are gone.  Any link back from the new Mel’s Diner is dead. 

I’m sad.

I had a lot of good posts back then.  You could read the posts where I discovered this fun girl in Canada named Sara making sandwiches.  The post of the 99.5 degree day I made fire and ice salsa.  The Recipe and a DVD posts with my Grandfathers beans and the one’s with homemade mozzarella.

All gone.

But, I can post them again, now!  It’s going to be like the best of Mel’s Diner in real time!  Maybe this isn’t so bad.

UPDATE!!!  Clearblogs is back!!  My old posts are available again! (DOUBLE UPDATE – This is from May 2008.  Clearblogs was back until the end of 2008.  Now it is gone again and it looks for good – Mike)

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 17 Comments


Yesterday, She Who Must Be Obeyed had to work, so the kids and I decided to make her a cake for Mother’s Day.  The kids did nearly everything (I only separated the eggs and frosted the cake).  We went to my favorite cookbook, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook for my favorite Lady Baltimore Cake and Portsmouth Frosting.  The only problem we had was instead of 8 inch pans, we only had 9 inch pans, so the cake is a little flat.


Here are the kids flouring the pans (we went outside to do that and that was a good idea)

Mixing and adding

Beating egg whites


Final mixing (by this time, flour was everywhere)


Final Cake

It was a lot of fun and Mom seems pretty happy with her cake.  Cooking with kids can be trying, but you need to accept the fact it’s messy and slow, but worth every minute.


May 11, 2008 Posted by | Dessert | 1 Comment


As some of you remember, back in January I participated in a cookbook review with some of the darnedest, bestest people whoever participated in a cookbook thing.  That was so much fun, I rashly invited many of the same people to do much the same kind of thing with Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.  Published in 1961, it was the bible of the soon to be burgeoning food movement in America.  So, who’s part of this cookbook thing:

We thought it would be fun, forty-seven years later, to re-visit the classic, now collecting dust on so many cookbook shelves.  Remembering the book was written for American cooks at a time when so many ingredients we take for granted were unavailable for the most part, the recipes seem quaint in their use of bouillon, canned truffles and few fresh herbs other than parsley.

So, rather than strict enforcement of recipes, we can play fast and loose (within reason, of course) with the ingredients, using fresh or different ingredients where Julia and crew had no choice.

The first recipe we did was an onion soup.  We picked it because it was a recipe the three ladies had created.  While living in France, Julia, Simone and Louisette started a cooking school called L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes.  So, in recognition of these three ladies:

Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee des Trois Gourmandes

  • 1 ½ lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 TB oil
  • A heavy bottomed, 4-quart covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter in the saucepan, covered for 15 minutes

  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 3 Tb flour

Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

  • 2 quarts of boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon.
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning. (This is why you skim)

  • A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers
  • 1 Tb grated raw onion
  • 12-16 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
  • 1 ½ cups Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tb olive oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bring the soup to a boil and pour into tureen or pots.  Stir in slivered cheese and grated onion.  Float toast rounds on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it.  Sprinkle with oil or butter.  Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to top slightly.

  • A 2-quart bowl
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 TB cognac

Beat the cornstarch into the egg yolk, then the Worcestershire and the cognac.  Just before serving the soup, lift an edge of the crust with a fork and remove a ladleful of soup.  In a thin stream of droplets, beat the soup into the egg-yolk mixture with a fork.  Gradually beat in two more ladlefuls of soup.  Again, lifting the crust, pour the mixture back into the soup.  Then reach in under the crust with the ladle and stir gently to blend the mixture into the rest of the soup.  Serve.

So, how was it?  To tell you the truth, IT WAS GREAT!!!!  The first time I made it, I used my roasted chicken stock I’m so proud of and found it didn’t hold up to the alcohol so well.  After the vermouth was added I had to cook it just over forty minutes to burn off the alcoholness and after adding the cognac at the end, the alcohol was over-powering.  Fortunately, the next day it was much better, so nothing went to waste.  The second time, I used home made beef stock and all was well.  I was surprised how much a difference there was with the beef stock – the chicken stock tasted great, but it couldn’t stand up to the alcohol.

The recipe is fussy, like a lot in the book – but, worth it.

Next time?  Sauce au Cari (Curry Sauce).  Look for the fun things we serve it with!

May 4, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Soup, That Cookbook Thing II | 7 Comments