Peeking through the Clouds
I wandered out to find a good spot to shoot the moon rise with My Mom and an old neighbor. The first place that came to mind was a dud. The second however turned out perfectly. Except the fact that I had forgoteen to bring My tripod. Even so, I broke out the 70-200mm and applied a 2x multiplier, so I was shooting at 140-400mm, on a cropped image sensor. Which is roughly 220-600mm in terms of a 35mm camera. Not something I would suggest in a hand-held scenerio. It was VERY hard to get a shot that wasn’t terribly blurry. With all that zoom range, I still had to crop all of the images here, I think You can only get good close, detailed shots of the moon with a telescope.. Unlike most people, we went out the day after the moon was full. Which was kind of stupid, since the day before was clear and the day I was shooting on was cloudy! We waited, missing the actual rising from the horizon, due to the clouds. After more waiting, there were a couple of gaps that revealed our lovely Luna. Here are all five of the 131 pictures I took, that weren’t a pathetic blur. Next time, I will not forget a tripod…
Cooking in the Twilight Hours
I often find Myself cooking between two and four in the morning. Not sure why, but this is when the proliferation of stir-fried creations tends to happen. In this case, a very simple set of ingredients lead to yet another delicious meal. Chicken in a salty caramel sauce, lightly fried veggies, caramelized onions and peppercorn rice. The chicken is a bit of a rip on a Vietnamese style Ga Kho, or as most of us call it, hot and spicy chicken. I simply omitted the fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger instead using seasoned salt. The rice was quite nice. It’s subtle, like sushi rice, until You bite on a peppercorn. If You use white pepper, it will be quite spicy. Other varieties emit a mild peppery flavor, but most of the bite dissipates while cooking. The onions took Me three hours to get to that amazingly sweet, gooey texture. If You skip that part however, this meal can be prepared and cooked in thirty to fourty-five minutes. Even faster if You make the chicken in one pan and the veggies in another.
For starters, chop up 2 medium to large onions and cook over low heat until caramalized and set aside. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot when You start, they will be dramatically reduced as You cook. This can take hours, but it is so worth it.
In Your rice cooker, or pot, add 1 cup of rice and 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, mix until the pepper is evenly dispersed. Then add 1.5 cups of water and 1 tsp of rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and cook until the rice has reached Your desired texture.
While the rice is cooking, thinly slice a medium sized carrot and fry over medium heat to Your liking and remove from the pan. Then, stir fry 1 cup of brocolli with 1 cloves worth of minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce. Once finished, remove from the pan and wipe it clean.
Now, over high heat, stir fry 2 chopped up chicken thighs with 1 tsp rice vinegar, half a tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt and 2 tbsp(or more!) of brown sugar. Cook until You have a thick brown caramel glaze and You are done. Enjoy!
A Crab Dinner for Burd
About a month ago I noticed a sign at a restaurant near My work. It said “all You can eat crab on Tuesday nights.” I immediately thought of Burd, My Brother’s wife, who is a foodie through and through. She loves seafood with a passion too. I shot Her a text and plans were made to attend this early week crab devouring. The next week, Tuesday arrived, the sign was gone. I stepped inside and asked the hostess if they were still doing it and was told, “no, so few people came that it’s been cancelled.” Our 5 day mental build up to this potential crab feastery was put down, hard.
Last week, was Burd’s birthday. Instead of a long lasting gift and inspired by recent events, I chose to give one that disappears rapidly. I went to a couple of shops around town, as well as surfed the internet. The web in fact led Me to the place which delivered these massive legs and claws to My door. It was slightly more expensive than getting the red king, golden king, or opilio crab legs found locally, but those were all so tiny by comparison.. Having read that the larger crabs tend to have a more robust flavor and sweeter meat, paired with My tendencies to go big, led Me to order 8 lbs of red king crab. Directly from Alaska. The biggest legs I could find were delivered to Minnesota, in under 18 hours.
I had told Burd, prior to Her birthday, that I was going to get Her a hammer as a gift. Which I gave to Her as We were departing a small car dealership in the southern suburbs. She was looking to buy a new car, possibly as a present to Herself? She was struggling to find a way to thank Me for giving Her a two pound mallet. Having arrived there seperately, She headed home in Her car and I headed there with My brother. We stopped at a store along the way and made it to their place before the birthday girl. Who then learned why She was holding a large rubber hammer. A knife works, but is slower and let’s face it, less fun…
I have had crab on many occasions. Nothing quite like this however. So succulent, arromatic and the beautiful color. Tasting of it made one feel so fat, so quickly. It was like devouring small, puffy clouds of sweet, tender, meaty goodness. These huge crab’s legs were just amazing. Without question, the single most luxurious thing I have ever eaten. I hardly even bothered dipping in butter, it was so delicious without any seasoning at all.
This beautiful hawk was clearly not happy about the amount of people stopping and walking toward it. I was more than happy to disturb it’s meal, considering it was on the side of a road. It was an intersection too, most of the people who drove by, turned around and came back. We spotted it and stopped immediately. Hastefully removing the wide angle lens from My camera and applying the hefty Sigma 70-200 2.8, since I did not think the bird would let us go near it. This large bird, which I believe is a ‘red tailed’ hawk, let Me within 15 feet or so before jumping up and perching in a nearby tree for a moment. I could feel a strong swirl of wind from the roughly 5 foot wing span as it took flight. Staying nearby as We humans went on our way, I assume it was going to swoop right back down on it’s kill. I admit the Mallard duck that it slayed looked quite delicious to Me as well, enjoy that fat meal bird. I hope no one hits it while it is feasting.. I see two or three of these birds of prey daily, never so close up though. They are much larger than one might think from seeing them perched atop a light pole on the side of the highway. What a magnificent semi-urban predator.
Double Pork Fried Rice
One of humanity’s most varied edibles. After a decade or more of experimenting and constantly trying different things, I have settled on a flavor arrangement closer to americanized asian restaurant versions of this classic home-style favorite. The sweet soy sauce, or alternately kecap manis, combined with rice vinegar and soy sauce is the winning formula at a great many asian restaurants here in North America. For Me, Simply add eggs, sweet peas and bacon, everything else is optional. The following recipe is my dressed up version which is very much a stand alone meal. Adding chili powder for increased depth to the rice it’s self, while also including carrots and onions, along with savory marinated pork. By cooking these things separately and mixing them together only at the end, You get a wonderful burst of the different ingredient’s flavors in every bite. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6+ as a side dish.
Supplies Needed: Large Wok or Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board
2 cups of White Rice, steamed or boiled(slightly undercooked, or day old rice is best)
1 pound or so of Pork, Your choice of cut, chopped into half inch pieces(or smaller)
One third of a pound of Bacon, sliced into pieces a quarter inch wide
3 medium sized Carrots, sliced thinly
1 large Onion, chopped as well..
Half of a bag of Frozen Sweet Peas
4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
4 tbsp of Sweet Soy Sauce or Honey, or 1+ tbsp of Sugar)
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
1 or 2 fresh Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of Chili Powder Blend
1 packet of Chinese Barbeque(Char Siu, Red Pork) Seasoning
Cooking Oil as needed
Prep and Cooking:
You will need to marinate the pork in the chinese seasoning for 30 minutes or more before cooking, over night in the fridge is best. Once it has soaked in the flavors, remove from the marinade and stir fry on high heat until fully cooked. I preffer a bit of charring on My red pork. Remove from the pan and set it aside for now. Rinse out the pan before continuing.
Over medium heat, scramble the eggs. Once cooked, remove, wipe any extra residue from the pan, then stir fry the bacon to Your liking and remove from the pan. There should be plenty of bacon grease now. You can poor off the excess, or just leave it all in. Stir fry the carrots until they start to soften, then add the onion and cook until the desired texture is reached. Remove from pan. Next, put the cooked rice into the pan, adding all of the remaining seasonings. Stir until everything is evenly mixed in, add the frozen peas and stir until they have thawed. Turn off the burner mix everything You have cooked together in the pan and serve.
Things go much faster using a skillet and a wok at the same time. Cooking the bacon, then veggies, followed by the rice in the wok and the eggs and then meat in another pan. Mixing it all into the wok at the end.
A Treasured Heirloom
Last year, I tried growing a variety of tomato called Cherokee Purple. Sadly, last year, spring was quite late and I had a pathetic harvest of one tomato, as noted in the post on this site called ‘Love at First Spite.’ This year I tried them again. Much like the previous year, spring was late, but I got them planted about 2 weeks earlier than before. Thankfully, I have a lot more to eat this time around. Varying in size from 3 to 6 and a half inches across, they have grown in such thick clusters that I’ve had to do a large amount of thinning to prevent rot, due to over crowding. The key to these tomatoes is the taste. They are simply better than most, if not all of the other varieties available. Even the under-ripe 6 inch 1.7 pounder pictured below is tastier than any other tomato I’ve ever grown, or gotten from a grocery store. I never thought I would actually like tomatoes, but I do now… Thank goodness some plants will still give us seeds that will grow into more food.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. The first time I made this, I roasted it in the oven. I made it again last weekend and opted to grill instead. Both times, it was quite delicious. Port wine and garlic provide the core of the flavor, with salt and honey accentuating the experience. Making for a solid base to add other ingredients to, which I shall venture in to soon. So long as You have time to let it marinate and take the time to baste as it is cooking, the meat should be very tasty!
Supplies Needed: Large zip-lock style bag, or a large bowl and a roasting pan, or baking sheet, with a raised edge to hold a bit of liquid.
6 Chicken Thighs, with bone
3-5 large Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 Cup Tawny Port Wine
1/2 Cup of Water
2 or so tablespoons of Sea Salt
As much Honey as it takes to thinly coat the top of Your chicken, roughly 1.5 tbsp per piece of meat.
Prep and Cooking:
In Your bag or bowl, disolve the salt in the water. Warm water makes this go faster. Then pour in the garlic and port wine. Mix or shake it up to Your liking and put the chicken in. Let it sit in the marinade for 4+ hours for the best results, but You can rush it by going no less than an hour. Once You have let the meat soak in the flavors and are ready to cook, You will want to keep all the liquids in Your marinating bowl, or bag and lay the chicken out on a baking sheet. Pre-heat Your oven to 400(f), but when You put the chicken in, turn the tempurature down to 325 degrees. Let the meat cook for 25-30 minutes and then start basting. Spreading the marinade evenly over the top of the meat every 5-10 minutes, layer by layer making a nice glaze. While cooking, any time You open the oven You should be spooning a layer of marinade over the top of things. Even if You just want to peak, always baste as well, it will help to add more power to the impact of the flavor. Once the chicken is just about fully cooked, You will be adding the honey. Try to evenly coat the top side of the chicken and place back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the honey has thickened to a nice dark hue over the red-ish color of the marinade. Remove from the oven, let it rest/sit for a minute or 3 and serve.
Just about any port should work with this recipe.
This would go very well with various herbs, citrus, or chilis. Thyme stands out to Me as a natural fit. I can think of plenty of other things too.
It doesn’t hurt to use a larger amount of salt, 4-8 tbsp, to create more of a brine. You will need to have an additional cup of port wine and 2 large garlic cloves, minced, for basting. Once You’ve removed the meat from the salty marinade, You would want to toss it out and baste with the extra wine and garlic. In this case, You may also want to baste fewer times, so it doesn’t just taste like wine.
For grilling, I would push the coals over to one side and place the chicken on the opposite side, using indirect heat, You can layer on the marinade and later the honey, without it burning so easily. Adding a chunk of hickory or Your favorite hard wood to the coals will only make things better.
Dancing Dolphin Vine
I bought this indoor friendly vine three years ago, along with My first citrus trees. It pumps out interesting orange-red flowers that do indeed roughly resemble dolphins jumping out of the water. Plentiful amounts of two and a half inch long blooms have come in waves every few months the whole time I’ve had it. At first, it was just two, four inch branches. After about a year, I re-potted the vine, proceeding to drop it and break off two-thirds of the delicate branches. Left with only one, six inch branch, I got it situated and let it grow. Then, one day I came home from work and found My lovely, quite fragile vine, top down and pot up on the floor. Presumably sliding off its perch on a stool due to vibrations from the construction crews updating the 55-100+ year old sewers and water lines along My street. Again, all but one twelve inch branch had broken off the vine. This time, I gave the broken off bits to My Mom, which she rooted in water and has now potted two of these plants, a little larger than the one I got from the nursery to start with. In the 6 months since the last tumble, a couple new sprouts are coming from the base of the mother plant, but the lone remaining arm of the vine has more than doubled its size. Pictured here is that vine, now 2 feet long and a shot of the parts that were broken off, but are now rooted and growing just fine on their own. This plant should be a mainstay in My living room for many years to come. Such a neat variety of flowers to have around the house.
True Entertainment for People of the North
Red Bull has hit it on the nail. This was the second year for their Crashed Ice event. If You aren’t familiar, think hockey, with no puck, or sticks, but on a twisting, hill laden track instead of a flat arena floor. I am quite certain if a bobsled team looked at the slopes built into the course, they would poo their pants, before realizing their lower jaws had landed on the ground. Actually, if they attempted to have a go, they would just fly off and into the crowds, or buildings, some of which were a mere 10-15 feet from the track.
It was unusually hard to get decent pictures of the action. According to one of Saint Paul’s Finest, there were well over 100,000 people in attendance for the 2 hour final. Considering the population of Capitol City is a mere 350,000, that is a huge turn out! This would also explain why it was nearly impossible to get close enough for some dynamic shots of the skating. I must admit, capturing these guys, flying down the course was a lot harder than taking pictures of drifting. Which is the only other thing I’ve had any real practice with rapidly moving subjects. So, I made sure to snap a picture or two of the cathedral. Wisely chosen 2 years straight as the backdrop for this, the only round of 5, held in the United States. Thanks for lighting it up for Me Red Bull. Not at all a common sight to see one of My home town’s most dominant structures glowing in so many colors…
I hope they continue to bring this event back here! Being the national home of hockey, home to 2 of the 3 major snow-mobile producers, as well as home of the coldest place in the contiguous U.S.(Embarrass, MN), hosting this truely cold weather sport in Saint Paul is a natural fit. Even better, they plan it to coincide with the Winter Carnival, so You get a completely diverse blend of people from many cultures and spanning all age groups. Honestly, do You think people elsewhere would happily venture out in sub-zero temperatures for some extreme sports and ice sculptures anywhere else? By the tens, or hundreds of thousands? Ahhh, Minnesota is a wonderfull place!