Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


Dipping back into Where Flavor Was Born, I’ve come up with my second submission for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge – Salads.  This recipe comes out of the Pepper chapter and for good reason; it has four different kinds of peppers in it, black, green, mild and HOT! 


Marinade and such

  • 8-ounce boneless sirloin steak (I used a small porterhouse I had)
  • 2 tsp. oyster sauce (I omitted because I’m allergic to shellfish)
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce (I upped to 4)
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
  • Oil


  • 2 Tomatoes, cut into 6 (make it 8 or 9) wedges each and seeded.
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 two-inch chunk of cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into sticks
  • 2 mild chilies, seeded and diced (I used jalapenos)


  • 2 Tbls. fresh green peppercorns (I used brined)
  • 2 Tbls. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1-4 small bird’s-eye chilies, bruised
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce

Pat meat dry with a paper towel.  Combine the rest of the marinade ingredients (except oil).  Marinate the steak for a few minutes.

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Sear the meat for 2 minutes on each side and then return to the marinade.  Let rest for 2 to 4 minutes.

Set the skillet back over medium heat this time and cook for a few minutes on each side until medium-rare.  Transfer to cutting board and rest for 3-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions, onion, cucumber and mild chilies.  Crush the green peppercorns with the side of a knife.  In a small bowl, combine the rest of the dressing ingredients with the green peppercorns.

Cut the meat diagonally across the grain into ¼ inch slices.  Add to the salad along with the dressing and toss well. Serve immediately.

I thought it had too many green peppercorns – I would go for only 1 tablespoon.  Was the re-marinate worth it?  I think it was – it…I don’t know…it was just really good.  I also hate to say this – but the dressing could have been a bit thicker, more emulsified.  I think the next time I would add some oil and emulsify it before I mix in the chilies. Other than that, it was fun to have hot meat in cold greens and tomatoes – a total winner.


June 29, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | Leave a comment


So, I’m hosting the Weekend Cookbook Challenge again (we must never speak of the first charnel house of a hosting I did).  This time, I picked something really fun, salads.  Now, who doesn’t love a salad!  We have green salads (ignored, but unjustly so), composed salads, like the ever famous Waldorf, Jell-O salads, just like my Grandmother used to make, (over and over again), potato salads, egg salads, Asian beef salads, etc.

Also, in total Mike fashion, I waited until the very last second to post (and this is just the first!)  I promised some people I was going to do a Jell-O salad, but…sorry, I’m not.  What I did do was go back to Where Flavor Was Born, the wonderful cookbook the lovely Sara asked a bunch us to review.  Looking for some salads out of the ordinary, I found this one:


  • 1 Tablespoon of whole cumin seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons of coarse sea salt
  • 1 Medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ Vidalia onion, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice

Toast the cumin seeds in a pan for 1-2 minutes, stirring/shaking very often.  Grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle and mix with salt.

Arrange the tomatoes, cucumber and onion on plates (or one big plate) and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and a little of the cumin salt, serving the rest of the salt on the side.

As he kids would say with their texting, OMG!  This was so good, even my kids loved it!  Katie and Tommy ate the whole salad (including the onions! – Well, Tommy only ate the tomatoes, but Katie ate everything!)

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 3 Comments


As many of you remember, a truly wonderful group of people (and I) are cooking several recipes from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, the 1961 classic from Julia, Louisette and Simka.  Up this time is Sauce au Cari, a light curry sauce.

Oh, we’ve had some new members join us, too.  Check out Kittie (whoops!), Shaun and Elle! 

Although it may seem like a safe choice, it is in fact loose canon because of the curry.  Curry, as we know, is in fact a blend of spices and it has been said there are as many curries as there are families in India.

I made this recipe twice because the first one I made was as thick as cake batter.  Now, I know classic French sauces in the 50’s were quite thick, but this was a bit much.  I’m still at a loss as to why it was so thick.  I know they made these recipes over and over again while writing the book, so I have a hard time believing the recipe is wrong.  My only guess is the flour at that time had less protein than flour does now; it was more like cake flour at the time.  Anyway, the second time I made it, I cut the flour from four tablespoons to two and the sauce was much better.  It could have used maybe a teaspoon or two more, but it was good.

Now the flavor – I liked it.  Many of my fellow co-conspirators were unhappy with the flavor, finding it weak and uninspired.  Again, this was nearly inevitable considering the plethora of curry powders (Shaun even made his own blend based on a recipe from Ghana) and how much tastes have changed in 47 years.  This was published at a time when spices where nearly unknown in the United States and spicy meant extra black pepper from the novelty pepper shaker.  Anything other than mild was going to be WAY TOO spicy.

Sauce au Cari

  • ½ cup white or yellow onion, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp butter

Cook the onions slowly in butter and oil in a medium saucepan over low heat for 10 minutes without allowing the onions to color.

  • 2-3 tbsp curry powder

Stir in curry powder and cook slowly for 2 minutes.

  • 4 tbsp flour

Add the flour and stir over low heat for 3 minutes.

  • 2 cups boiling milk, white stock or fish stock (I used my roasted chicken stock)

Take the pot off the heat and blend in the boiling liquid. Return the sauce to heat and simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • 4-6 tbsp whipping cream
  • Salt & pepper
  • Lemon juice

Stir in the cream by tablespoons, until the sauce has thinned to the consistency you wish. Check seasoning and add lemon juice to taste

  • 1-2 tbsp softened butter
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Off the heat, just before serving, stir in the butter by bits and then parsley.  Serve immediately.

Like I said, and unlike many of my partners in crime, I liked the less cake-battery sauce.  It wasn’t like the curry I had that last night in Calcutta, but nothing can compare to that night.  OK, so I never had a “last night in Calcutta”, heck – I’ve never had a FIRST night in Calcutta, so maybe that’s why I like it.  But whatever it is, I kind of liked this sauce, in fact, I can see me using milk instead of stock next time, because I like milk fat.  And the thought of a bovine product in Indian food sounds so wrong!

Check out all the better posts about this recipe:

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, That Cookbook Thing II | 8 Comments


This past Saturday, the kids and I went to the Concord Farmer’s Market for the first time this year.  It felt great to get back up there, see a lot of the farmers I’ve been seeing for years and check out what they’ve got early in the season.  I talked to Larry, my garlic and lettuce guy (the best around) and tell him I’ve still got some of the winter garlic I bought last fall.  The kids got to buy some muffins (blueberry and cranberry, white chocolate) and run around in front of the Capitol while I checked out the other vendors.

I love to go to the farmers market  – nowhere will you find better tasting vegetables and such – I picked up a dozen eggs that were gathered that morning.  Also, you get to support the local farmers, you know, the ones whose farms you look at when you drive by and say, “Gosh, that’s beautiful”.

Search out your local farmers market and GO!  It’s worth every extra minute you spend with good people, away from the cold, tasteless supermarket.

Check out the rainbow chard!  When was the last time you saw that in the supermarket and even Katie liked it!

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 2 Comments


Due to a watermelon incident involving a 5 year old trying to cut a whole melon with a table knife that ended with the watermelon falling to the floor and breaking in half, I have two quarts of watermelon juice.

Any ideas on what I can do with it?


(It’s in an old milk bottle from Sherman Farms here in New Hampshire)

June 15, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 4 Comments


Well, today is Father’s Day and I didn’t expect anything.  I do most of the cooking in the house, so I get to make my special Father’s Day meal.  I’m not complaining, mind you – I like to cook, so making my own meal is a present in itself.

Back to Father’s Day.  For Mother’s Day, the kids and I made a cake for mom, but there weren’t any plans like that for Father’s Day – I’m not a big cake guy.  But what should happen just as She Who Must Be Obeyed jumped in the shower?  My wonderful kids brought up breakfast in bed for Dad!  (That’s juice, BTW)


They did it all by themselves (Katie is 9 and Tommy is 5) with no urging from their Mother.  I’m pretty lucky.

June 15, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 3 Comments


Oh, so many moons ago, I posted a recipe for salsa from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  I’ve been making it for years and everyone, EVERYONE who tries it – loves it.  It’s a fresh salsa recipe and every time I’ve made it with “winter tomatoes”, it’s terrible.  So, for years, I’ve only made it with fresh tomatoes. But, lately I’ve made it with canned tomatoes I’ve cut into pieces. 

It’s good.

I mean really good!

So, for the next few weeks as you wait for fresh tomatoes, don’t be afraid to make this with canned tomatoes (a 28-32 oz can), but only those with no citric acid, please.

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Best Of...., Random Blather | 1 Comment


This past weekend, we went to the old homestead for a baptism (“We’re Godparents!”) and a wedding (mercifully, not the same person).  It also got HOT!  We were up in the hills of Western Massachusetts and it was still in the upper 90’s.  Now, because of all the celebrations, there was no cooking involved.  We got home yesterday and it was still in the mid-90’s.  Got the air conditioner in the bedroom, turned that one and the one downstairs on and concentrated on why I hate the outdoors.  A hot night with the whole family in the bedroom and off to an even hotter day!  At some point during the day, it hit 104 degrees in my backyard

104 DEGREES!!!!!!

So, was there any cooking?  No, but I still relish the thought that in just 10 more days, summer solstice occurs and then the days begin to get shorter!!  Winter, I yearn for thee!

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 1 Comment


 Ever use a ricer?  A while back, I picked up a small ricer for cheap money just to try it.  I actually didn’t use it for a long time, but on a whim last summer, I mashed some potatoes with it.  I was shocked at how good it was!  Now, because it’s just a little guy, mashing a bunch of potatoes with it can be a real chore, so I’m considering buying a food mill.  But, food mills are either pieces of junk or expensive. 

Has anyone used a food mill?  Any idea how it compares to a ricer?

June 5, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | 1 Comment