Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


OK, so I tried some BLT recipes,  I was thinking about a BLT stuffed tomato – I mean, how could that be bad?  Well, it wasn’t, that’s for sure, but maybe it needed a bit more umph than I added.  I cut off the top of five tomatoes and scooped out the guts.  I then squeezed the guts to get as much juice as possible and then strained the mix to just have the juice.  The last time I added this to the stuffed tomato mixture, it made it too wet and the stuffing was like cement.  So, I reduced it down over medium heat until it was just half of what I started with.  I had some day old rosemary bread I made into bread crumbs, mixed them with the tomato juice and a bit of olive oil.  Oh, I had also cooked up 1/3 pound of bacon and chopped it into small pieces – that was added also.  I then stuffed the tomatoes with the bacon/bread mixture.

I also made polenta – Corn meal cooked in water for hours.  So good…..I added Parmesan cheese and salt at the end and it was just corny yummyness.  Of course, my family hated it – their loss.  Add some roasted chicken legs and this is what it all looked like


Yeah, it was great.  I made a sauce of caramelized onions, sweet vinegar and reduced chicken stock.

Tomorrow – BLT salad with a bacon mayo dressing!


March 30, 2014 Posted by | Side Dish, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Preserved Lemons – iliketocook

Preserved Lemons – iliketocook In one of my past lives, I was a food blogger…and a pretty good one, for a while.  Before that, I was a political blogger and a pretty good one at that, too – but that was like two or three lives ago.  In my past foodie life, I was just a piker until I found a fantastic lady from Canada who inspired me and along the way I harassed her into recognizing me as a human being/blogger.  That got her friends to see me and then, for a short while, I was a real food blogger.  I let life get in the way and dropped out.  She, on the other hand, let life get in the way but had the tenaciousness to hang on and she is still a darling in the bloggy world I once inhabited.  And the blogosphere is better off for it.  This is one of her first blog posts that mentions the pest from New Hampshire….

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Appetizer, Best Friends, Side Dish | Leave a comment


OK, thinking BLT stuffed tomatoes. The filling has to be loose when cooked and this is what I’m thinking:

• Bread crumbs
• Cooked Bacon
• Cheese (dare I say optional?)
• Mayo or Olive oil (Mayo gets a bit gross when warm)
Served on a bed of lettuce (maybe with mayo on the lettuce?)

What do you think?

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Appetizer, Main Dish, Side Dish | Leave a comment


While at the bookstore last week I picked up a little book in the sale section called The Great Salsa Book.  I like salsa and I think I make a pretty good basic Tomato Salsa Fresca.  This weekend, on a whim I thought I would try the first recipe in the book, Tomatilla Salsa Verde.  I’ve never really had a green salsa, living in New England and all, but I thought what the heck, let’s give it a shot. 

Tomatillo Salsa Verde


  • 1 lb tomatillos
  • 3 Serrano chiles with seeds (I had Jalapenos, so I used them)
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbls. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt


Husk & rinse the tomatillos. Coarsely chop them & place them in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor & puree. Transfer to a serving dish but let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving.

I tried this as soon as it came out of the food processor – it was terrible!  Very bitter!  SO, I let it sit like the recipe says and, lo and behold, it was much better.  Still, fairly bitter, but quite nice on a corn chip.  Interesting.

After that, I was inspired to do more salsas!  I had two poblanos and a left over Fresno pepper and two jalapenos.  I roasted them by putting them under the broiler and flipping them as they blackened their skins.  Out of the oven and into a plastic bag to steam for 20 minutes.  Out of the bag, peel the skins off and de-seed.  I then diced my roasted peppers and put in a bowl.  Add to that a small onion, diced, one large tomato, peeled and diced.  A tablespoon or two of olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, salt, ½ small bunch of cilantro and ½ of a lime, juiced.

This one – really good.  The roasted peppers added a different dimension and it wasn’t as spicy/hot as my regular salsa. 


August 10, 2009 Posted by | Appetizer, Recipe, Side Dish | Leave a comment


Well, let’s try this again, huh?  I’ve been out of the food blogging world for a couple of months now, but I THINK I’m back.  Work was crazy beyond comprehension for months now and I just didn’t have time to blog, even have time to cook.

My good friend at work, Lana, mentioned watermelon rind pickles a few weeks back.  She was fondly remembering the pickles she used to have as a little girl 29 years ago and I chimed in with me remembrances of the same pickles I used to have as a kid (more than 29 years ago).  I impulsively said I would make some for her along with Mike’s world famous Fire and Ice Salsa, maybe the perfect use of watermelon.  Now, what I wasn’t ready for was the breeding and genetic engineering we have done to watermelons.  Because no one in their right mind uses the rind, we have bred our watermelons to have a very thin rind, about half as thick as when I was a whipper-snapper back in the last century, so the pickles are a bit thin.


  • 2 quarts water
  • Rind from 1 large watermelon
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 small stick cinnamon, in pieces
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice


Remove the pink pulp from the watermelon and cut the rind into manageable pieces. Cover with boiling water and boil for 5 minutes; drain and cool. Cut off the green outer skin of the watermelon rind and remove any remaining bits of pink pulp. Cut the rind into 1-inch strips or squares or any shape you prefer. You should have 8 cups of cut-up rind. Mix the salt with 1 1/2 quarts cold water and pour over the rind. Let stand at room temperature for about 6 hours. Drain, soak in several changes of fresh, cold water, and drain again. Cover with fresh, cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer just until tender when pierced with a fork; drain. Mix the vinegar, 1 cup water, and the sugar in a pot, then add the cloves, cinnamon, and allspice tied in a cheesecloth bag. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Add the watermelon rind and simmer until it is clear, adding more water only if necessary. Remove the spice bag. Pack in hot, sterilized jars and cover with the boiling liquid, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and seal. If you wish, process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Like I said, I was dealing with new watermelons, so I’m not sure I had 8 cups of rind, but it was pretty close.  I had about 1/3 cup of pickling brine left over, but I did fill two pint jars.


The pickles were just what I remembered and Lana thought she had died and gone to Heaven; she found them to just as she remembered, too.  Quick and easy, they are worth a try for anyone.


July 28, 2009 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish | 2 Comments


When I was growing up, one of my favorite canned recipes that came from my Grandparents kitchen was the chili sauce (like this, but better).  The chili sauce I ate was a sweet, spiced, vinegar-y tomato sauce that was served as a side dish to beef.  This wasn’t made all the time, not every year – it was like a total afterthought to extra tomatoes.

As I got older, I realized nobody was making this but my Grandfather every once in a while.  So, I went to his house one day and asked for the recipe.  He went to an ANCIENT book with recipes taped to the pages.  He came to a page with a handwritten recipe on it called, “Mrs. Bingley’s Tomato Chili”.  The Bingley’s were a family that lived in the village of Bancroft, Massachusetts where my Grandparents lived.  Mr. Bingley even built me a little wooden chair when I was born that I have to this day – my cousin Craig refinished it and my kids still sit in it.  That recipe must be well over one hundred years old.  And today, I present it you. No strings, no copyrights, it’s for you to enjoy and if you don’t, you’re the worse for it.


  • 18 Large Tomatoes, peeled and diced (I used a #10 can of whole tomatoes)
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 4 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups of cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. of allspice
  • 1 ½ tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp. of cloves
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. of salt


Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot (8 quarts or so) and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered for 3 hours until thickened. 


Can in pint jars in boiling water for 20 minutes.

It’s so good, sweet and tangy – a perfect side to almost anything, but especially beef.  It’s also a great addition to meatloaf.

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish | 1 Comment


Ketchup.  I like ketchup.  My kids LOVE ketchup!  Many a (what I consider) fine dish that I have worked hard on has been covered in ketchup as soon as it hits the kids plates.  Sometimes, I cringe –  but, often I just remember what it was like to be a kid and how ketchup made everything taste better.

So, for years I’ve always threatened to myself to make homemade ketchup.  Never really searching out a recipe, I just harbored the fantasy of whipping up a tub of that tomatoey goodness.

Well, in the February issue of Saveur, I found a ketchup recipe and surprise, surprise I had all of the ingredients on hand.  So, with some time on my hands, I gave it a shot.


  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1⁄4 tsp. chile flakes
  • 1⁄4 tsp. whole allspice
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar
  • 5 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chile, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic

Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, chile flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and put into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat along with tomatoes, salt, vinegar, sugar, onion, and anaheim chiles; smash and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions and chiles are very soft, 40 minutes.

Remove spice bundle; purée sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like.

Transfer ketchup to a glass jar. Set aside; let cool. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

So, what did I change?  What makes you think I changed anything?  Because we know you, that’s why Mike!  Well, I was out of cheesecloth, so I couldn’t wrap everything up in a bundle.  So, I just tossed the spices in and fished them out later.  And I got them, too – except for the mustard seeds and chili flakes.  Also, because I’m not the smartest person in the world and used decades old cloves for years, I put in five cloves.  This made the end product VERY clove-y, I should have used 3 or 4, tops.  Next time, I’ll use 3, maybe 2 because my cloves are fairly new.  I also used a 28oz can of tomatoes, this being January and all, and that’s seemed fine.


Even after those changes, it was pretty darned good!  Again, too clove-y, but cutting the number down would make it fine.  It is definitely not as sweet as Heinz and different, full of subtle flavors and tomatoe-y goodness.  A real keeper.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish | 1 Comment


I finally took on the cheese squash.  As I have mentioned before, I picked up a cheese squash a few weeks ago with no idea what to do with it. I thought I might do something with it for the last Weekend Cookbook Challenge, but laziness took over and I did nothing.  Every now and then I would search the web for ideas what to do with it, not finding anything, really.  Meanwhile, it just sat there, taunting me to attempt some sort of attack. 

So, yesterday, I took my big chef’s knife to it.  I had read it was orange inside, but I was still surprised just how orange it was:


Getting the seeds out was a joy, again, just like a pumpkin.  But, I dug and dug, getting squash guts and seeds all over the counter.  I then cut it into six pieces and peeled a wedge with a knife, diced it and cooked it.  It tasted, well, squash-y, nothing special at all.  I peeled the rest of it, chopped it up and vacuum sealed it in bags to be frozen for future use.

I didn’t freeze all of it, I kept a couple pounds and made a casserole to go with dinner.


  • 2 pounds of winter squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 Tbls. of butter
  • 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup of finely diced onion (see note)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ tsp. of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cups of buttered breadcrumbs

Boil the squash in salted water until is soft.  Mash the squash and mix in the rest of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs.  Pour the squash mixture into a buttered casserole and top with the breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

Quoting Jamie Oliver again, easy-peesy.  The only thing I would do differently in chop the onion instead of dicing it and sautéing it for 5 or 6 minutes before adding it into the squash mixture.  The onion was bit to “bright” for the rest of the dish.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables | Leave a comment


I canned the sauerkraut tonight and it is FANTASTIC!  I tried it last week and found it just a tad un-krauty.  I like a real bite of lactic acid with my sauerkraut and it was just a bit dull, so I gave it another week.  Tonight, it was wonderful – just what I was looking for.

Out came the canning equipment and I started boiling water.  I filled eleven pint jars and two quarts, packing it in and topping each off with the salty, acidic brine.  Boil the pints for 20 minutes and the quarts 25 minutes.


I had about a cup or so of leftover sauerkraut, so I cooked that with wursts from Karl’s Sausage Kitchen and, dare I say it – tater tots.  It was good.

So, that’s my sauerkraut for 2008.  Happily, I can say it’s three years of great sauerkraut with no problems.  I think next year, I’m going for the big time. I’ll search for a crock and attempt A LOT next year.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Side Dish, Vegetables | Leave a comment


Wow, this is the closest I have ever come to missing a Weekend Cookbook Challenge – I seriously considered skipping this.  Not because I didn’t care or because I didn’t have any ideas or I hated the host (I don’t!).  It’s just because I’ve been lazy and busy and the 31st came on to me too fast.

Lisa from Confessions of an Apron Queen picked Fall Vegetables for this month’s challenge and I was all set for my Cheese Squash.  Well, the Cheese Squash sits unmolested on my dining room table and it’s the last day of the Challenge!  So, I broke open my sauerkraut.  What says fall vegetable more than fermented cabbage?  Well, maybe not this fermented cabbage.

I started this sauerkraut five weeks ago, but later than I usually do.  Sauerkraut will be done in 4 weeks, but only if the temperature averages about 60 degrees.  For the past month, it’s been cooler, so the sauerkraut will take longer and that’s what I’ve discovered.  I gave it an extra week and it still needs a little more time.  That being said, it was still good and I ate some, but just a bit longer fermenting will be great.  And the cookbook, it’s the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 6, Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled Vegetables.  Not something you run out to Barnes & Noble’s for – in fact, IT’S FREE!  How can you beat that?  Any way, here’s the sauerkraut with some kielbasa:


Here’s the cabbage still in the brine with a new weight for another week in the house.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 2 Comments