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do-it-yourself diner food
by Amy Nicholson
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Diners are great. In fact, self-described gourmand that I am, I'd still rather eat at a diner then the latest nouvelle-pretentious arty restaurant. Maybe it's the bottomless cups of coffee or the congenial biddies pouring them. More likely, it's the round-the-clock hours and my penchant for plastic menus and booths. Regardless, diner food is pure Americana. Hearty portions of burgers, fries and tuna melts tap into the hungriest part of our national psyche, and those not with our greasy spoons are against us. There are times, though, when the typical sit-down sandwich experience doesn't satisfy. Not that Flo's presentation and delivery are sub par, but diner prices are sky-rocketing across the country and sometimes that mushroom-swiss combo just isn't as glamorous as it once was. These recipe ideas are for in-home evenings when you want your comfort food with a twist. Turn on your own bottomless coffee maker and dig in.

the sandwiches
pineapple-blue cheese burger
cranberry-cheddar turkey burger
Trust me on these -- at least enough to give them a shot. If sharp, rich cheeses could talk, they'd beg to be cut with a clean, tangy fruit. While my friends have eventually accepted the pineapple-blue cheese burger, my old roommate, Earnest, launched a pre-emptive strike against the cranberry-cheddar version and said my future children would grow up to hate their weird mommy. I'm going to teach it to them young, and they'll love it, those little open-minded epicurean darlings.

Toast the bread while grilling the burger . Don't feel pressured to use those pallid white bread buns. We've all used white bread for our burgers and hotdogs in a pinch. Now, with deliberate and exciting authority, pick out a flavorful bread that you enjoy -- anything but sourdough -- making sure it's sturdy enough to carry a hot and heavy sandwich without collapsing from the middle. I like a multi-grain wheat berry, a hardy, sweet pumpernickel or breads studded with pecans.

Flip the burger over, salt and pepper it and top with the cheese. When melted, assemble with fruit, stacking pineapple rings on the patty or lavishly spreading homemade, or even store-bought cranberry jelly. These flavors are strong and simple, and don't need to be sauced up with ketchup, mayo, mustard et all to reach maximum enjoyment. In fact, I wouldn't add anything else except crisp lettuce or maybe some grilled onions. Dig in -- and if you come up with any other combinations, pass them this way .

wander on for more...

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