Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Mission

I hereby swear that to the best of my recollection the following account is true and correct.

1730 hrs- Four men gathered at the dock knowing full well the gravity of the mission ahead. No one spoke of the possibility that we may fail, or even worse, not return. It didn’t matter that there was a rookie on this trip either because there were seasoned veterans on board. Brian had more experience than he wanted to share; experiences that can change a man. Just the week before, he’d taken sharp steel to the face yet was back on mission. It’s just the kind of men we are.

Easing down the river, we watched the last of civilization slip away behind us. The open ocean in front looked serene but the knowledge that the machinery of war lies just beneath the surface sends a shudder up my spine. We are all aware that the world’s largest submarine activity is based just up the shoreline.

1830 hrs- Our destination is upon us. We take careful measurements to ensure all is well. We want to stay on course. Deviation could mean failure. I am the first to grab my weapon and slip in the water. I’m not trying to be the bravest but I was eager. Unlike the first time, I don’t fear this. With no hesitation, 3 other men are right behind. We fan out in a familiar pattern and set to the mission. Like the last time, Tim was the first to strike. His victim fell quickly, probably unsure that he was even under assault until the last moment. It’s a fate that many more would share this night. In a short time, all of our weapons were in use and aptly hitting their marks. There were some worries about Ryan at first. He was the lone rookie in the group. There’s always a danger there. It was unspoken, but if he failed, the rest of us would have to hold up his end of the work and ensure his safety. We all had a first time.

2030 hrs- There were four of us still. Turning and heading home was welcome. We had succeeded. Unlike last week’s mission, there were no casualties this time. I feel guilty that I wasn’t around to help but I’m thankful that we all are safe this outing. So many lives ended this night. It’s difficult to explain the feelings. At the dock, we offloaded and headed our separate ways left to our own demons. Later, I would sleep well.


The weapons for the impending assault

OK, OK, OK… this was about clamming again. “Clam Assault II” to be exact. What fun. Its worth mentioning that just a few weeks since my first clamming, the water temperature has considerably improved and it was much more enjoyable. Like last time, the next night was a gathering and eating of the clams at Tina and Tim’s house. We also took the opportunity to welcome a new addition to our business team, Jason. Good guy.

Gathering with wine and food. Class act that Tina (with the finger)

So last time Tina and I decided on a Portuguese clam recipe. It was delicious and if you scroll down a bit, you’ll find it. This time, my wheels turned in another direction. I wanted the clams to be easy so I suggested that this time, we just pop them open with the grill. All seemed OK with this idea but the front that passed through the area and dropped record rainfalls that night made it quite challenging. I felt really bad too (seriously) since Tim was doing all of the grill work. He was getting soaked.

Tim on the grill in the rain. A true soldier

In the meantime, I set to the 2 sides. I made a very similar Orzo salad from the previous clam night. Tina asked me to. She is my boss, by the way. I had to swap out a few ingredients because of availability at the local market but the radishes worked well in the place of fennel. I love the versatility of cooking.

The recipe that I want to share in this writing was the kale. According to the crowd, this was a hit. When entering the market a few minutes before the dinner gathering, I had visions of prosciutto wrapped asparagus but there was no prosciutto or asparagus. Plan B. Look around. Sure why not try something new with an ingredient I’ve never worked with. Kale it is. To be fair, I’ve seen it worked with and I’ve been hankering to try so I feel pretty prepared to have a go. I thought it was spot on. While having a flavor all its own, I would place it alongside collards in flavor. The richness of the bacon, the sweet tomatoes and the buttery parmesan made a savory and flavorful accompaniment to the purity of the clams.

Kale notes: A lot of kale makes a small amount. A bunch will reduce to about 1/10th of its original size and serve about 2 as a side. I used about 4 bunches. Remove most of the stalk because they are a bit woody. I put the sugar down below as optional because I’ve heard these greens could be bitter. Ours were not and we did not use it.

Kale with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan

3/4 lb bacon diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 shallots chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 red chile peppers chopped (seeds removed if you like less heat)
½ cup white wine
4 large bunches of Kale (each a bit larger than a basketball) stems removed.
Juice of a lemon
½ tsp sugar (optional if a bit bitter)
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese plus some for sprinkling

If you think you have a large enough pot, cool. Sorry for all of the basketball references but you need a pot big enough to put a basketball in and cover. In this large pot, begin browning the bacon over medium heat. Once crisped, about 4 minutes, remove bacon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Drain all but a couple of tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add olive oil and cherry tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and peppers. Cook 2 more minutes. Add white wine and begin adding kale working one bunch at a time. As the liquid from the leaves begins to steam off, the leaves will wilt quickly. Once reduced to half, add the next bunch and keep turning with tongs. In just a few minutes the leaves will completely wilt. Add the bacon. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Turn again and cook through for just a couple of minutes. Transfer to serving plate and cover with the parmesan.

Serves 8.

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