Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire

WELCHING ON A MARKER

Well, let it never be said that I welched on a marker.  Last night I made Sherry’s Alphabet Soup and it was quite good.  It takes a special kind of fun person to think of recreating a kid’s classic soup and makes me miss knowing her even more.

I made just a few changes (as you knew I would) to her wonderful recipe, but nothing Earth shattering.  I CAN’T STAND lima beans, so they were jettisoned, I didn’t have any celery (how did that happen?) and all I had was canned peas, so they were added at the very end just to warm them.  Other than that, I was true to Sherry’s recipe.

ALPHABET SOUP JUST LIKE WHEN YOU WERE A KID

  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, chopped small
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 of a 7 ounce package of alphabet pasta
  • Pinch of herbs, if you wish.  I used dried thyme [not me!]
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup peas

Saute the onion, thyme, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes, over medium heat. Add the can of tomatoes, including the liquid, and the stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then use a hand mixer or food processor to make the broth smooth. (You don’t have to do that, if you don’t want to.[I didn’t])

Add the celery, potatoes, corn, and peas to the stock base, and cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the pasta to the soup and cook according to package directions–about 4 minutes, usually.

I brought the leftovers to work and a few people laughed at me, but they were the losers – it was great!  Thank you, Sherry, for bringing me back to my childhood – I loved it!  Again, God Bless you – you still bring joy to this world. – MPM

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July 30, 2008 Posted by | Friends, Soup | 3 Comments

SHERRY

I didn’t know Sherry Cermak.  I had never heard of her blog What Did You Eat?, I never tracked back to her whenever one of my friends mentioned her and I have never been to Davis, California.  To me, Sher was just one of those names you see off to the side of your friends blog and I’m worse off for it.

Sherry died last week of a sudden heart attack and it has thrown the little corner of the WWW I lurk about in into a tailspin.  Visiting her blog now (too late, I know), I can see why.  She was such an open and fun person, I can only imagine what a joy it was to know her.  Do a quick Google search and you will be blown away at her interests and accomplishments.  And c’mon, anyone who rescues squirrels HAS to be wonderful.

She also had a lot of fun recipes on her blog.  And in memory of her, Sara and Mary are hosting a “We Love Sherry” day, asking people to make one of her recipes, share memories, etc.

And I can do none of those today.  As I mentioned, I didn’t know of Sherry and I’m leaving for Maine in a few minutes, thereby assuring that I can’t even make one of her easy recipes.

But, as Sky Masterson said, I give you my marker.  As Nathan explained it, “A marker isn’t just a piece of paper that says, ‘I.O.U. [one recipe post] signed [Michael].’ It’s like a pledge that a guy can’t welch on it. It’s like not saluting the flag!”

So, look for my post of either her Tomato Alphabet Soup or Southern Baked Beans before August 3rd.

PS – Goodby, Sherry.  It has been said, “Light one candle and the world is not the same”, but, blow that candle out and the world is that much darker and colder, too.  God Bless You.

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Friends | 2 Comments

KOSHER DILL’S

My unofficial goal is to become the pickle king of New Hampshire.  Of course, for this to happen, I will need to make a lot more pickles than I do and many more different kinds of pickles, but we all must have goals.  Then again, how many people want to be the pickle king of New Hampshire?  Maybe I’ll get it the same way Homer Simpson became an astronaut – by his two favorite words:  “DE-FAULT! DE-FAULT!”  But I digress.

I make kosher dill pickles.  They’re called kosher, but they’re not really; I mean, no Rabbi has ever inspected my processing facility (kitchen) or my recipe.  But, kosher dills are dill pickles with garlic added and those are the ones I make.  My recipe is based on the Quick Dill Pickles in the USDA Guide to Preparing, Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables.  I’ve made the fermented pickles SUCESSFULLY once and they were the best pickles I have ever had, but the threat of botulism was so sever and REAL, I’ve tossed the last two attempts.

Anyway, the quick pickles make a good pickle and you can can them or, if you’re like Tommy and me, just put them in the fridge because they’ll be gone in a week or two.  I put them in an old store bought pickle jar, but use anything you have that will hold a few quarts.

QUICK KOSHER DILL PICKLES

  • 8-10 pickling cucumbers
  • 3 cups of vinegar
  • ¼ cup of salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 ½ Tbls. mustard seed
  • 10-12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves of garlic (I had fresh garlic, thanks to the farmers market)
  • a few sprigs of dill or 2 Tbls. dill weed

Wash the cucumbers and cut of a tiny bit of the blossom end (Usually the lighter end of the cucumber.  Any bit of the blossom left on will be very bitter).  Pack them into your jar as tight as you can, cutting one or two in half lengthwise to fit.  Add mustard seed, peppercorns, bay leaf and dill.  In a 3 quart pot, bring the vinegar, salt and water to a boil.  Pour over the cucumbers and put on cover.  Put in refrigerator. They will be ready to eat in a few days, a week would be even better.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Recipe | 2 Comments

WEEKEND COOKBOOK CHALLENGE – FARMER’S MARKETS

I love Farmer’s Markets.  I mean, I am not an outdoors kind of guy, so you would think going outside hang out with a bunch of un-reformed hippies would be the LAST thing this guy would want to do.  But, every week I jump out of bed early to get to the market.  I even prefer the hippies over the more corporate farms that dot the market here and there – I trust and like their food more.  It’s an enigma.

So, when Michelle from Je Mange la Ville picked Farmer’s Markets for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I smiled like a kid in a candy store.  I had no idea what to make, but I knew all I had to do was to go to the Farmer’s Market and let it tell me what to make.

So, on Saturday I went to the market and came home with:

  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 7 or 8 tomatoes
  • 4 or 5 small-ish cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of onions
  • 1 donut (OK, that didn’t make it home)

So, what to make?  Gazpacho!

For a recipe I looked through the cookbooks and settled on The Silver Palate Cookbook.  The only thing that had my head cocked was the addition of EGGS.  OK, I know where my eggs come from and I wouldn’t be scared to eat them raw, but in gazpacho?  I couldn’t do it – so I left them out; I also didn’t have fresh dill, so I used dill weed.  I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t need to serve 8-10 people.  But, here’s the recipe in it’s entirety:

GAZPACHO

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 2 med. sized yellow onions
  • 2 large shallots
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Wash & prepare the vegetables. Core & coarsely chop the tomatoes; save the juice. Core, seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel & coarsely chop onions & shallots. Peel, seed & coarsely chop cucumbers. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, reserved tomato juice, canned tomato juice & eggs. In a blender or processor with the steel blade, puree the vegetables in small batches, adding tomato juice mixture as necessary to keep blades from clogging. Do not puree completely; the gazpacho should retain some of its crunch. Stir in cayenne, salt & pepper to taste & dill. Cover & chill for at least 4 hours.

Chilling the soup is a necessity and you won’t mind waiting the four hours after you taste how good it is.  A perfect soup for a decidedly un-perfectly hot day, which it was.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Appetizer, Local, Soup, Vegetables, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 3 Comments

MARKET DAYS

Yesterday, the kids and I went to the farmer’s market in Concord and then went around the corner to Concord’s Annual Market Days.  At Market Days, Main St. is closed off and the stores plus lots of other people set up tents for a day of outdoor fun!  Along with all of the tents, there’s rides, face painting, games – even some animals; it’s very much like a small fair.

The kids rode the rides

They played the games

They got their faces painted

They checked out the animals

This is all well and nice (it was, too!), but where’s the food part of this FOOD blog post, Mike?  In a blast from the past, I came across The Good Loaf bakery and her blessed pain de mie.  Almost none of you will remember last summer when I spoke of this wonderful bread.  It holds a special place in my heart because it was posting about sandwiches with this bread that I first became friends with a wonderful Canadian girl named Sara.

Anyway, the kids and I were walking through a huge tent set up with a lot of little tables of various shops when I spotted the bread.  I, literally, sucked in air and made a little happy noise.  I said, “Pan de Mie!  I love this bread!”  Because I was so excited about it, she sold it to me for three bucks.

On the way out, I spotted an antique shop selling a bunch of stuff and in a big box marked “4 dollars each” I found this fish roaster and a GIGANTIC cake pan.  I have no need for either, but I know someday, someday I will need them and for eight dollars, I’ll be all set.

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Local, Random Blather | 4 Comments

A DRY WELL

This has been a very odd week.  The weekend was a lot busier than I expected – we went to my (our) friend Mary’s Birthday party in mid-New Hampshire and stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn nearby.  For that, I made the now famous Tomato-Cucumber Salad with Cumin Salt and Fire and Ice Salsa, both readily available at Mel’s Diner.

Coming home late the weekend, we flipped and flopped, spit and sputtered until Wednesday when the kids went to their Grandmother’s house.  We went out to eat Thursday night (one disappointing place to a good place) and then picked them up tonight.  Katie’s off to a birthday party, it’s over 90 degrees and we had hot dogs for dinner. 

So, what’s worth posting?  I’m watching Guys and Dolls and heard one of my favorite lines:

“Why a guy without a doll….who would holler at him?  A doll is a necessity.”

I do have plans to cook this weekend, maybe some Tapenade Bread or some Ice Cream.  So, let’s hope.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather | Leave a comment

BEST OF…..BAKED BEANS

It’s so freekin’ hot, I have lost all will to post.  And the sad thing is that’s it isn’t all that hot – it could be hotter, it will be hotter.  Yet, still – I want to lie in front of the air conditioner and long for November.

But, I do need to post.  An updated blog is a good blog, and I want a good blog.  So, I’ll split the difference and post a Best Of…

I loved my Grandfather and I still love the food he cooked.  Beans, stuffing, donuts, HUGE pancakes…just a small list, but all so GOOD!  Last August, for a Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I posted one of his best recipes…Baked Beans.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Best Of...., Recipe | 3 Comments

AHHH…TO BE AN AMERICAN!

I would be remiss not to mention the highlight of the 2008 Year In Sports, by that I mean the 93rd annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest!

Hopes were high this Independence Day that the sainted Joey “Jaws” Chestnut would retain the Mustard Yellow Belt and keep that treasured object on American soil.  Last year, Chestnut crushed the seemingly unstoppable Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi, consuming 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.  Hearts raced and fears rose that The Tsunami would return this year and take the blessed Belt back to Japan, it’s home for ten terrible years, 1997-2006 (with the exception of the tainted 1999 win by American Steve Keiner).

This year, the contest was returned to the original 10 minute time frame, throwing off the Major League Eaters rhythm, yet the two titans of the tummy rallied, each taking the lead again and again in a see-saw contest the left both with 59 hot dogs eaten at the end of regulation time.  For the first time, the contest went into overtime (or, sudden death, as some have called it), with each contestant (I like to call them “Hero’s”) being given 5 hot dogs and buns and the first to finish would be the winner.  Sensing victory close at hand, but with defeat equally as close, Joey stepped up to the plate (the dinner plate) and pulled one out for the team, eating the five hot dogs in 50 seconds, 7 seconds faster than The Tsunami.

Once again I have to say, God bless Joey Chestnut and God Bless the U.S.A.

July 8, 2008 Posted by | Opinion, Random Blather | Leave a comment

FRUIT CRISP

Summer fruits are starting to ripen and with that comes the DESSERTS!  I know, fruit is good for a snack, a salad, etc., but c’mon, what we really want are the desserts.  And this recipe is so simple, there’s no reason not to make it every night (except for the weight gain, of course).

One of my family’s favorite fresh fruit deserts is the crisp.  It can be made with just about any summer and fall fruit, but it is best with berries.  I was at the store and I spotted some fresh cherries and scooped them up for this desert.  Sure, I had to pit them and it’s amazing where fruit juice can fly to when you force a pit out the side of a berry, but it was worth it. 

(I know, technically, cherries aren’t berries, they’re drupes, but who wants a drupe crisp?  As a man, the thought scares me for some reason.)

FRUIT CRISP

  • 4 cups Fresh Fruit
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1 stick Butter

Place fruit in an 8 X 8 baking dish.  Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together and pour over fruit.  Melt butter and mix with the egg.  Slowly pour over the dry mixture.  If you want, you can now lightly sprinkle sugar over everything, giving it a sweet, crunchy top when it’s done.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the top golden brown.

Here’s some pictures at various stages in the baking:

Fresh Cherries

Ready for the oven

Yum

July 8, 2008 Posted by | Dessert, Recipe | 2 Comments

THE STINGER

This is kind of an out-of-the-ordinary post Mel’s Diner – a cocktail.  I’m not opposed to cocktails at all – in fact, I may be too unopposed (posed?) to them.

This is an old fashioned cocktail that gets no respect at all.  Today, if you mention Stinger, you get blank looks and vacant stares from the “in” crowd, telling me they aren’t as ‘in’ as they pretend to be.  True, it is an old drink; mentions of the Stinger have appeared as early as 1917, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.  Cary Grant never forgot them, the Stinger appeared in two of his movies, Kiss Them For Me and The Bishops Wife.

STINGER

  • 2 ounces of Brandy (Don’t waste the really good stuff here, but do use rot-gut, either)
  • 1 ounce of White Crème de Menthe (Don’t use Green, it will look like mud)

Fill a rocks glass with ice and add brandy then crème de menthe.

 

Some recipes call for the cocktail to be served straight up, but I’m against it.  The Stinger should be as cold as possible, so it should always be served over ice.

July 4, 2008 Posted by | Cocktails, Recipe | 1 Comment