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Posts tagged “nice

Focus on the Little Things

I bought a set of screw on macro filters to play with. I was buying an intervalometer to enter in to time lapse photography and adding the filters to the order made it qualify for free shipping, for cheaper than the shipping cost. At twelve dollars, this four piece set made by AGFA is a steal! They simply screw on a lens like a UV, or polarizing filter and allow You to get physically closer to what You are trying to shoot. Not without a hitch though. This 77mm set has been mated to my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 OS to reduce the minimum focus distance from three and a half feet, down to eight to twelve inches with the +4. The extreme curve of the +4 and +10 filters, dramatically reduces the amount of light intake. So You are pretty much required to shoot in full sun light. On My first try, I used a portable L.E.D. to augment the fading evening light. It worked okay, not great though.

Over the weekend, I was musing pretty hard on My friends garden, so I popped on the +4 filter and had a go in full sun light. The filter reduced the depth of field to nearly nothing. I had to run very tight apertures to get a range of one inch into focus. Using shutter speeds of 125ths, to 400ths of a second, with apertures from 16-22 and My ISO at 400 and 800 in broad daylight was very odd. It did yield some rewards, at a better ratio than the first time, but still only 1 in every 15 shots was acceptable. Half of those were still not quite sharp, but I think I am getting the hang of using these things. Who would have thought that a $12 set of filters could turn a telephoto lens into decent macro shooting optics. It is not as good as buying a 200mm macro lens, but at one, or two percent of the price, WOW. None of the images in this post have been cropped…

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An Evening on the Side of the Road, Bringing Back Great Memories

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (1)

This weekend is the Car Craft Nationals here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have been taking a LOT of car pictures lately, so I opted not to attend the gathering it’s self. Instead heading out with My buddy Ryan Clemens of Opposition Motors, to post up on the side of Snelling, just out side of the show. There was a very wide variety of vehicles out and about, mostly American made, spanning many decades, but there were some other cars out cruising too. It is nice to see classic and modern muscle cars, massive land boats from the 70’s and 80’s, low riders, high riding trucks, kit cars, sports cars and a whole lot more, out on the streets at once.

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (42)

This was like a throw back for Me. When I was Younger, University Avenue was the home of all things cruising. Every weekend there were thousands, upon thousands of cars and huge quantities of people out on the strip. We had one of the most robust car cultures in the world, on display, three days a week. Over the last ten to fifteen years, this scene has been broken up and dispersed, to the bain of an awful lot of local businesses. So many local and family owned restaurants and shops have gone out of business since the city started it’s campaign to end the cruising scene’s dominance of our weekend culture. Much of the blame lands on the shoulders of a large home for the elderly, building and expanding to become a sprawling complex, right on University, next door to the beating heart of this, now miniscule scene, Porky’s drive in. Naturally, the people at the Episcopal Homes complained heavily about the noise and abundance of people walking next to their building. Sadly, three or four years ago, Porky’s, the lone 50’s style eatery left in Saint Paul and home to some of the best all American eat’s around, went out of business. I really, REALLY miss having My double supreme burger, with that great “special sauce,” the city’s best pork cutlet sandwich, the best onion rings I’ve ever had and a thick, chunky strawberry malt, whenever I want. Now I, as well as every one else, will never get to eat their great food again. Below is a picture from their last year in business. That crowd, is nothing compared to what was around for decades in the past. The massive bland buildings in the rear, are two of the four newest buildings of said retirement home. I am all for giving our elders reasonable homes, with care takers to look after them as best they can, but why choose the busiest street in a bustling part of town? Can You guess who expanded in to the space left when Porky’s died?

Porky's Drive Thru in 2010 © Andor

I wish I had a better picture of this iconic eatery, but I don’t. In the end, all hope of the cruising scene on University being revived, was crushed by the construction of the recently completed light rail line, which runs right down the center of the street. The car culture is still visible, but since there is no place that everyone knows to go to, the numbers of cars out on the weekends are laughable. There is no where that You’ll find ten, or fifteen thousand people gathering, like in the past. So those of us who wish to re-live the sight seeing, less the food that’s not available anymore, must wait for two or three events per year. Back to the Fifties and Car Craft being the main draw. The local economy has been delt a pretty big negative impact overall. These hand full of gatherings do help a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that the miles of road occupied by smaller businesses are now lined by endless corporate chain stores. Funneling money out of the Twin Cities. The general lack of low riders and imports out at these events is a huge loss of variety too, but at least we still have something! I guess.


Porsche, All Around


A New Place to Taste

I guess this place opened about 3 months ago. Located in east Saint Paul, ‘Cook’ looks to be a place that I shall be going to again soon. I opted to get a Monte Cristo sandwich, which was very yummy. Next time I shall get the Short Ribs Eggs Benedict, which one of My friends ordered. The bite of it that I got was quite delicious. Also pictured is their Brunch Burger and homemade Apple Pie.


Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (1)

I am in love with this soup! Layers of porky flavor make it a delight to devour. I originally intended to make a bacon and bak choi soup, but instead I used what was in My freezer. Thus stumbling upon this lovely combination. Baby lima beans add a great texture and are perfect for reducing the spicy impact on Your taste buds. Obviously, bacon adds to almost any meal, but by cooking it in different ways, bacon can take things to the next level. I have been playing with different methods of cooking it for quite some time. Treating a pack of standard, sliced bacon as a single piece of meat is the key to this dish.

Soup takes time to make. It is very easy, since You can ignore it most of the time, but it’s a long process. 3 hours of simmering on the stove seems to be the minimum for getting all of the flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients. Simmering for 4 to 6 hours before reducing has yielded the best soup stock for Me. Be sure not to reduce too far, the general rule is that You want to cook it down by half. You don’t want to end up with soup concentrate. Making this soup is a two part recipe. First, one must make the stock that provides the base flavors. Then, You fry Your bacon and finish the soup with spices. I tend to make stock half, to three quarters of a gallon at a time, since the largest pot in My kitchen is 8 quarts. Storing any that is not being used right away in the freezer for later. It will last about a month in the freezer, so You can save time and make the stock well before the day You intend actually to serve the soup.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (2)

Supplies Needed: TWO 8 quart stock pots(the second is for straining), a decent sized strainer and a skillet for frying.

~For the Stock~

Ingredients:

2lbs Ham Shanks, or the bone of a mostly eaten ham

3 large Carrots, cut in half, or thirds

2 large Onions, halved

half a bushel of Celery

half a bulb of Garlic

2 Bay Leaves

1.5 to 2 gallons of Water(as much as can be fit into the pot with the other ingredients)

Andor's Porky Soup Stock © Andor

To Cook:

Put all the above ingredients in a stock pot, adding as much water as possible(1.5 to 2 inches from the top of the pot). You don’t want to boil it, set the burner to whatever setting You need to keep it simmering. Continue simmering for 4 or more hours. Then, strain the ingredients from the liquid, pressing as much of the broth out of them as possible. Discard the solids(eat the meat, if there is any) and return the liquid to the stove. Now You want to bring it to a boil and continue until the soup has been reduced to about half of the post-straining quantity. You don’t want a full rolling boil, with a foamy top. A ‘low boiling’ is ideal, constant large bubbling is what You want to see. Once reduced, let cool and place in the fridge over night. When it’s nice and cold, remove the fat that has solidified on the top. Now proceed to the next part of the recipe, or put it in containers and freeze.

~Finishing the Soup~

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Cajun Spice blend

A 1.5 to 2 inch wide slice of the Bacon slab and half a cup or more of Baby Lima Beans per person

1 tsp freshly ground Peppercorns(multi-color medley is best for this)

Salt to taste

Slow Cooking Sliced Bacon © Andor

To Cook:

Over medium-low, or even low heat, start frying the bacon, spreading the pepper evenly on the top and bottom. It is best to slow cook, flipping every 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the temperature low, so You don’t burn the outsides before the center has been cooked. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. You may also have a hard time keeping the bacon from splitting apart, I suggest using a tongs for flipping, so You can hold each piece together as You maneuver them around. Once the bacon is ALMOST cooked through, heat Your soup stock on high. Once the soup starts to boil, add the baby lima beans, cajun spice and salt and reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally. At the same time, turn the burner for the bacon to medium-high and fry until the outer edges are nice and crispy(burnt is ok too), then remove from the pan, placing on a towel to pull out the excess grease. Make sure the beans are cooked to Your liking and turn off the burner. Ladle the soup and beans into bowls and place a chunk of bacon on top. Serve hot!

Notes:

I have only served this when also making other dishes. I’ve never tried it as a stand alone meal, it’s a great fit for multi-course dinners.

Cooking sliced bacon in this manor provides a unique texture, similar to tender un-sliced meat. Half pound slabs cook up quite well, but are hard to slice afterwords without breaking it all apart. I prefer Corn King brand bacon. You may laugh, or turn Your nose to the sky, but the brine and smoking process they use produces a superior tasting grease. I use bacon grease instead of cooking oil in most of My cooking, so such things matter to Me. Yes, I am telling You that a mass produced product of Iowan factory-made bacon is better than bacon from a quality butcher shop!

Baby lima beans are really tender inside. If You are substituting regular lima beans, You will want to boil/steam them with water and add to the soup when plating. Otherwise they will be tough and meaty in texture.

This soup is very barbecue friendly. I saved 15 bones from pork spare ribs that I had smoked, added them, burnt edges, sauce and all, instead of the ham. It was delicious! I was unsure about how the charred ends and the messy, sweet remnants of bbq sauce would affect the flavor, but it came out really good. The only burnt parts were maybe half an inch at the tip of each bone.  The soup lacked the hammy flavor and aroma, but was instead smelling like a barbequed bowl of goodness. I admit to also using one head of bak choi in place of the carrots that time too. The spice blend really helps this soup fit in to a barbecue menu as well. The spiciness just invites one to eat more sweet, savory, saucy ribs.

I have also found the broth, which is the soup after straining, but before reducing, is very good for sauces. 1 cup of broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger, some garlic and a splash of chili powder made for a delicious thick sauced stir-fry.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (3)


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A Rare Sight Around Here

A Rare Sight Around Here © Andor


A Walk in Locke Park