Dinners at home with my family almost always turns out to be a feast or buffet. If anyone’s coming over, you’re sure to be leaving with a very full stomach. Ever since the recent trickling of companies started to send me some of their products to eat or drink with for the past few months and my garden’s growing quite a bit of cucumbers, I thought I might as well utilize them for my dinners (and of course, my parents chipped in the help, both cooking and eating).

A big ol' cuke from my garden Big ol’ cuke

Large, fat cucumbers that are larger than my hand’s grasp are bursting out from its vines, I made a simple, refreshing salad by using the mandoline. The remarkable difference between homegrown cucumbers to the ones you buy from a grocery store is the freshness and the flavor; it’s so much sweeter and juicier.

Sliced homegrown cucumber and tomato
Simple cucumber salad

Homemade pizza, baked
Homemade pizza

To go along with the salad, I made pizza from scratch. The dough is an adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible recipe. I topped it with tomato sauce, garlic, processed mozzarella (I like the drier product so it won’t weigh down my crust with a ton of moisture), red onions and fresh basil (from my balcony). It’s a low maintenance meal that takes about 30 minutes to bake in the oven. The dough itself is an overnight rise and I don’t really knead the dough that much. The results are worthwhile. It’s both pretty and delicious.

Gooey cheese

New Leaf Teas & Lemonades
New Leaf teas and lemonades

Beverages for the evening was your own pick of New Leaf‘s teas and lemonades. It’s the best non-alcoholic pairing you can get for hot, sweltering days in NYC.

Homemade olive oil gelato with homemade basil syrup

For dessert, homemade olive oil gelato (Babbo cookbook’s recipe) utilizing my brother’s extraordinary fruity, almondy olive oil from his recent vacation from Barcelona. When you add some basil simple syrup (yes, the same homegrown basil), it adds a minty quality to the gelato. A great ending to this dinner.

Nielsen Massey's Organic Vanillas Melitta's products (coffees and their singe cup brewer)
Nielsen Massey Organic Vanillas & Melitta’s coffees

Then next week, my mom asked me about my Melitta coffee shipment and proposed the idea of cooking with coffee. Crazy idea but I’m willing to go with it. I know I can cook coffee with beef by creating a spice rub. I made a mixture of using Melitta’s Vienna Roast finely ground coffee with a hefty load of black pepper, a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, sugar (to offset the heat a bit) and salt and throw it on the grill.

Pour on this morning's coffee Steaks coated in coffee spice rub
Marinating meats with coffee

My dad helped out on the other meat dish by using a bit of the morning’s leftover coffee and marinate the duck for four to five hours, along with dark soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and salt. Roast it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so and you got yourself a gorgeous, almost mahogany brown skinned duck.

Shiny, just roasted duck Platter of duck breasts and legs
Roasted coffee duck: Before and After

The duck’s skin was super crispy and the meat was lightly infused with coffee flavor. It’s juicy and well seasoned.

Coffee spice rubbed steaks, sliced
Coffee spice rubbed steaks, after grilling

I gave my steaks to the grill with my younger brother and he handled it pretty well. The steaks were cooked to a perfect medium-rare and the coffee flavor was strong but not overwhelming the steak. Slightly bitter, smoky, and a touch spicy this was a pretty successful rub.

(Four) homemade ice cream flavors of the week Iced coffee vanilla ice cream float

As for dessert, I used Nielsen-Massey‘s organic vanilla to make Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream. (Philly-style ice cream doesn’t have egg yolks.) Having extra coffee and freeze it briefly, I transferred it to a stemless flute and top it with the aforementioned ice cream. Think of it as a cold affogato or a coffee ice cream float.

Thanks again to New Leaf, Melitta, and Nielsen-Massey for their wonderful products.


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Nicholas says:

    I’d be curious what coffee rubbed steak tastes like. Is it bitter? Or does the taste get mellowed through cooking? Also, that’s a gorgeous pizza!

  2. Nicholas: Coffee rubbed steaks (at least mine) were spicy, smoky and a touch bitter and sweet. If I have to estimate how much coffee I used to the total, it’s about 40 percent (or 2 tablespoons). The next highest amount used (in descending order) was the black pepper, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper (literally a small pinch or 1/8 teaspoon). My family generally can’t handle spicy stuff so I mellowed out the spicy-bitter with sugar.

    As for the pizza comment, thank you! It’s meant to be colorful.

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