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Stir Fry: Harvest Special

I didn’t grow a ton of veggies in the garden this year. I did have a substantial carrot patch, a mix of Touchon and Purple Dragons. I also had a pair of Fairy Tale eggplants, some Pablano peppers and a good amount of Tatsoi bak choi. Needless to say, all of these things came to meet one another in My wok. With a few additions, a very nice meal was spawned. There is just nothing better than garden fresh food! Here is what I did for the first meal after harvest. Paired with rice, noodles, or bread, this recipe serves two ravenous teenagers, or four average appetites.

Garden Fresh Stir Fry © Andor

Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
3-4 large carrots, chopped into pieces no more than a quarter inch thick
4 small eggplants, sliced about a quarter inch thick(Kamo eggplants are best for frying)
1 large onion, chopped to Your liking
2 pablano peppers, diced
1 head of bak choi, stems removed(about 30, 3-4 inch leaves)
a quarter cup of dry sherry
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bacon grease(I love bacon grease!), or Your choice of cooking oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, lemon juice, hoisin and pablano peppers in a large bowl, or zip-lock bag. Add the pork and let marinate for at least 30 minutes(over night is best). Over medium-high heat, stir fry the carrots until they reach Your desired texture and remove from pan. Then stir fry the eggplants with black pepper and a pinch of salt and set aside as well. Now start cooking the onions, when they start to turn translucent, turn the heat to high and add the pork and liquid mixture. Stir fry on high until the meat is done cooking, then reduce heat to medium and stir in the bak choi. Then, turn off the burner and mix everything together. Plate and serve!

Notes:

Obviously, nearly any meat will work with this recipe.

Pablano peppers are really mild, this is not a spicy dish…

If using mock duck, marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Add the liquid marinade to the onions and let it thicken a little, before adding the mock duck to the fry pan.

Running short on time? Skip the marinating part, simply put the liquids and peppers in the pan when You go to cook the meat. It will still taste great, but the meat won’t be quite as flavorful.

Most varieties of eggplant will cook VERY fast and fall apart, becoming mush. Which is why I suggest Kamo eggplants, which hold their texture very well compared to every other variety. If using another kind of eggplant, You must pay close attention to the texture, once You can dent it with Your finger, remove from the pan immediately. Some eggplants are very moist inside, laying them on a dry towel or napkin after slicing(before cooking) can dry them a bit and thus help keep them from disintegrating as You cook.

You can use the bak choi stems if You like. Chop them up like onions and fry until tender after You cook the eggplant.

Cooking each ingredient separately helps mix up the flavors that hit Your tongue. You can indeed cook the carrots and onions together, then add the eggplant and meat. Stir frying till everything is done, but You end up with a more uniform flavor, which is good, but lacks the depth of each ingredient. You also have more control over the texture of each thing when cooking them solo…

I admit to using too much bacon fat in making this one. You may have noticed by the glossy nature in the photo… It was delicious though!

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30 Hour Vacation

30 Hour Vacation © Andor (21)

I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.

Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.

For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.

Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.

My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.

After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…


Rolling In Style

My Mercedes 2014 © Andor (1)

Ten years ago, I discovered this frame on eBay. I wanted a full suspension set up, but had pretty much given up on finding such a frame that wasn’t stupidly heavy for My purposes. I was looking for a light weight mountain bike frame to build up for riding the city streets. This beauty weighs in at 4.55 pounds, that is the frame, shock and the black seat mount together. It just doesn’t get any better than that, unless You want a rigid frame. It was made by a company called Amp Research, formerly Amplifier, in the late 90’s. Originally, these bikes came with disk brakes, the first bike ever with disk brakes in fact. Though that made for some complications in My build. Now, there are standard mounting points for brake calipers and rotors, but since this was before standards came to being, the only ones that work are the original Amp brakes. Unfortunately Amp Research is an engineering group, that dabbles in many different types of things and at the turn of the century, they ended their decade-long run making bicycles. Needless to say, finding all the hardware, without buying another one of their bikes, whole, was not an easy task. Over the next couple years, I actually bought two more variations of them. This one aquired on auction from a police department in Michigan.

Only the frame and fork were from that auction, along with a set of the old Amp disk brakes. These black and white bikes were originally made for the New York police department, amp added the rack to their standard issue Mercedes-branded bikes and sold them to cops around the nation. I love the front fork on this bike. A second generation Amp model, which has a mere two and a half inches of travel, but they are so smooth and absurdly light. This is a B3 series frame set. Which recieved all of the rest of it’s components, less the brakes and wheels, from My old specialized rock hopper. I bought the Vuelta wheels and a set of Shimano IS Hydraulic disk brakes once I figured out an adapter to be able to mount the now standard brakes. Which was a four year hassle that eventually led Me to sell this bike in frustration. The front worked just fine, but the rear brakes were mounted in a pretty shody way. At least I doubled My money on it.

My Other Mercedes 2010 © Andor(4)

Shortly after selling that bike, I found an Amp F3 front fork, with the carbon fiber pipes, from their last(B5) frame. I proceeded to replace the Girvin Cross-Link Elite that had been on My silver B4 frame for 5 years. This was a welcome change, since the old Girvin fork was nearly twice the weight. Oddly, the carbon fork is actually heavier than the older, all aluminum one. It does have a longer range of travel, but it is not as smooth as the elder fork was either. It does match the carbon rear end of My frame and the bike is much nicer to ride than it was with the cross-link on it. I must admit though, I liked the look with that girvin fork too.

Me and My Mercedes 2006 © Andor

I was happy to aquire My third Amp Research bike(not pictured) because it had the v-brake clamps. If I had not worked out a way to run them, I would have had to switch to some regular wheels and run the same lack lustre rear disk brake arrangement as on the police bike above. I really did not want to take the non-disk braking, carbon composite Spin Tri-Spokes off of this bike. They just look so great and if You haven’t connected the dots, just think, Mercedes-Benz logo, only they are the wheels. Yeah, I went there… Having rode this bike for 4 years with only front brakes, clamping on the mounts for the rear end was a nice feeling. So was the feeling of being able to stop really fast, without flying over the handlebars. Six years after getting the frame, the bike had reached what should be it’s final incarnation. I wish I could have fit a larger front gear, but the angle of the lower-rear fork will not allow more than the 48 tooth that’s on it. She rides like a champ, quite fast, easy to accelerate and it has a firm ride, but takes the edge off of those massive Minnesota pot holes.


Pesto, Arugula and Mozzarella Rolls

IMG_1351-2

This, super simple recipe, is just delicious. Pictured above with wadds of bacon and a giant cup of tea, it goes well with an awful lot of things. Yesterday, I served these rolls with My ‘traditional ribs’ and it was a quite pleasant pairing. Plucked from the BBC’s Good Food web site, it isn’t My usual experiment and see what happens kind of dish. Having a mere four ingredients, anyone can whip these up in minutes. I think this is a good one to teach to kids, since it doesn’t require cooking and can be jazzed up with just about anything. If You are looking for a quick, satisfying snack, or if You need something that can be made well ahead of having company over, this one is a winner. Serves 8, or half that many hungry teenagers.

Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board(if You are using fresh Mozzarella blocks)

Ingredients:

4 – 10 inch Tortillas
1 cup – Pesto
1  – 12oz block of fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
6-8 cups – Arugula

Prep:

Lay out a tortilla and spread 1/4 cup of pesto all over it. Add cheese to half and spread arugula evenly. Roll it up, starting from the cheesy side and slice for serving, or refridgerate for later. Yeah, that’s it.

Notes:

Shredded mozzarella nullifies the need for any pre-assembly prep.

The original recipe called for two sheets of lahvash flat bread instead of tortillas.

Adding bacon, thinly sliced pastrami, or some such thing makes this into more of a meal than a snack food.

Experiment! Such a simple flavor combination goes well with a lot of different things.

 


Cajun Spiced Chicken Stir-Fry

Many people tend to think stir-frying is just an asian thing. This, however, is simply not true. This particular recipe is My most recent stir-fry developement! A very basic flavor combination that goes well with most vegetables, pictured here with carrots, onions and broccoli, served on toasted whole grain bread. Albeit untried, I do beleive this would go well with pork or beef, amongst other things. Paired with rice, bread, or noodles, this recipe serves 2 ravenous teenagers, or 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or large, high sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board, Large Bowl, or Sealing Bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, sliced a quarter inch thick or thinner
2 Large Carrots, chopped into thin pieces
1 Onion, Chopped up too..
Half of a Bag of Frozen Chopped Broccoli, thawed
4 Tbsp – Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp – Worcestershire Sauce
2 or 3 Tbsp – Cajun Spice Blend
1 Tbsp – Minced Garlic(2 large cloves)
2 or 3 Tbsp – Pure Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bacon Grease or Cookig Oil as needed

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, worcestershire, half the cajun spice and half a tablespoon or so of salt into a large zip-lock bag and drop the chopped up Chicken into it. Mix that up and let it marinate for 20+ minutes. Now is a good time to chop Your vegetables! Heat Your wok at medium-high heat, grease the pan and start stir-fying the chopped carrots with half the garlic, after the carrots start to soften a little, add the onion and broccoli, continue frying until the ingredients are cooked to Your liking. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken and all the contents of the marinade to the fry pan, also adding the rest of the garlic and any additional salt and pepper You want. Turn Your burner to high heat and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the liquids start thickening, then add the last tablespoon of the cajun spice, pour the veggies back into the pan, drizzle the honey over the top, turn off Your burner and mix it all together. Plate and serve!

Note: The amount of sherry listed is for the lower end stuff found in most big box grocery stores here in North America. If using a quality sherry from a winery or liquor store, try using half the amount stated.