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


Why do I love this time of year?  This is why!  This is a tomato I pulled from the ripening table because it had a scare and was getting fruit-fly-ish.  I just cut the scar and stem out and cut it for a salad.



September 15, 2009 Posted by | Vegetables | Leave a 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


Well, once again I have neglected my posting duties.  I have no excuse other than I was/am just out of posting mode.  As for yesterday, I couldn’t have posted if I wanted to – I was canning a bushel of tomatoes, and that ain’t easy, brother!  I started about 10:00 AM and it went through to 5:00 PM.  I had to peel all the tomatoes by plopping them in boiling water and then after 30 seconds or so, moving them to ice/cold water.  The skins come pretty much off and then to the cutting board.  There I cut the stem out and cut them into pieces and into my turkey roaster – both top and bottom!

(The cocktail shaker in the back was a reminder of what awaited at the end of all this tomato steam)

I cooked them down for about 2 – 3 hours to concentrate the tomato and then into old 28 ounce spaghetti sauce jars (pretty crafty, buying those the past two years, huh?).  Then, into the stock pots to hot-water can for 45 minutes.  I did three rounds of those and in the end I had 16 jars of canned tomato.  Seems like a lot of work for just 16 jars, but they are really good and I will enjoy them this winter.

August 31, 2008 Posted by | Random Blather, Recipe, Vegetables | 3 Comments


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:


  • 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


Squeaking in again, here’s my recipe for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge.  This month’s edition is hosted by the effervescent Sara and the theme is Veggin’ Out.  Now, I’m not a huge vegetable fan, I’m not going to lie to you.  My food of choice has been and always will be High Fructose Corn Syrup, no, wait… I mean meat.  I prefer my food to have once roamed the earth and to have mooed or a future in bacon.  That being said, I can and do enjoy non-meat items, though I tend make them as meat-like as possible.  Along those lines is my recipe choice, Vegetable Stock. 

This wonderful recipe comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden and I can’t say enough good about it.

Moosewood Garden

Moosewood Vegetable Stock

2 large potatoes, thickly sliced

2 – 3 onions, quartered

3 – 4 carrots, thickly sliced

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 apple quartered

1 or 2 bay leaves

6 peppercorns

10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) water

Add all ingredients to a stockpot.

Veggie Stock 

Bring to a boil.  Simmer for an hour or more.  Strain stock, pressing the vegetables to get as much liquid as possible out.

That’s it.  As Jamie Oliver would say, easy-peasy.  Oh, don’t skip the apple.  The first time I made this, I thought it would make it sweet, so I only put in 1/2 of an apple and pulled it out early.  Lo and behold, the stock was a tad bitter. 

January 20, 2008 Posted by | Vegetables, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 4 Comments