beer clams + heavenly kale salad

Birthday dinners are rather important. I'm not saying they need to be fancy - but there needs to be thought behind it. I'd be perfectly happy with a pizza for my dinner because then it'd be about the atmosphere or getting to binge watch my favorite shows on Netflix while we ate.

But, one of the best things about seeing my lovely friends Meghan and Sarah is that they also love to cook and appreciate thinking about meals. I mean, I am always thinking about my next meal ... and especially when it is a birthday dinner for someone we all love.

So this is what we whipped up while on the coast of Maine...
- Beer clams
- Heavenly Kale salad
- Faux margarita swordfish

Beer Clams. I've been making mussels for a few years now and I tend to make them largely the same way each time. Wine + butter + mussels. Then a few weeks ago, someone told me about the concept of cooking clams in beer. I proclaimed the idea genius and immediately set about planning when I could make them. Thankfully, my friend Meghan loves clams more than the rotation of the Earth. So it was fitting that she get clams and that they be a new adventure.

The beer clams turned out really great - but I'd recommend avoiding an IPA beer. I'm always a big fan of using what you have on hand ... and we were all real busy drinking Mount Gay and Tonics so there wasn't a plethora of beer in inventory. Next time, I'd splurge on something lighter perhaps.

Heavenly Kale Salad. I've been thinking about kale salad ever since I saw this caesar salad post by a friend (Feed Me Phoebe). I actually have all the ingredients in my fridge right now to make it - but I've been oddly intimidated by my first foray into kale outside of soup. We actually had this salad TWICE in three days because it was so good the first time. You really can't screw up an opportunity to have goat cheese and bacon. It's an automatic win.

Faux margarita swordfish. I made this dish back in May when I got home from Italy and absolutely loved it.... but I love tequila. Meghan will not drink tequila. So when Sarah and I were brainstorming for dinner ideas, we loved the idea of this fresh summer fish but just held back on the liquor. No sense ruining dinner for the birthday girl. Also, I blacked out and picked up cilantro and instead of parsley while we were shopping.... so otherwise, totally the same.
Nothing we made for dinner was very complicated for sure. Each part of the meal had a step that required a bit of extra time (i.e. making a marinade) but then it was back to easy street. Easy street was eating crackers and cheese and sitting on the deck.

Making the clams

(Step 1) In a large pot, add you beer, garlic, lemon, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a slow boil. Since there isn't much liquid in the pot, you only need medium heat and it'll be super quick.
(Step 2) Once the mixture is boiling, add in your clams. Give the mixture a bit of a stir and put on the lid.
 (Step 3) After about 5 minutes, you'll see the clams are beginning to open up. When a clam is open, it is done and safe to eat. Some clams we bought took a few extra minutes (maybe 10 total?). If a clam doesn't open, don't eat it. You'll be a little mad that you ended up with a dead clamie, but it'll be okay.
 (Step 4) Pull the clams from the pot and serve with the broth for dipping.

Kale Salad
(Step 1) Cook up 3 pieces of bacon in a pan. You want the bacon to be crisp but not overcooked. Floppy bacon doesn't belong here.
(Step 2) While the bacon is cooking, you can prep the rest of the salad. Tear the kale from its center thick stalk and into bite size pieces.
(Step 3) Add your diced tomatoes and goat cheese to the kale
(Step 4) Once your bacon is cooled, break it into pieces and add to the salad. You might be impatient and want to crumble immediately (and sneak a bite)... but Sarah managed to get me to wait and it is much easier to crumble when cool.
(Step 5) The salad is essentially all made and just needs the dressing. Combine the olive oil, honey, lemon juice, and salt to taste.
(Step 6) Now you just get to eat it.

The swordfish was prepped just as indicated in the original recipe except for the exclusion of liquor and the substitution of cilantro for parsley. I didn't make the margarita butter this time and while you can certainly get by without it .... I would definitely say it is worth the small bit of effort.

Shopping List
beer clams (for 2)
2 T butter
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb clams
1/2 beer (avoid IPA or dark beers)
1/2 lemon cut into wedges

kale salad (for 4)
8ish leaves of kale (do we call them leaves?)
3 pieces of bacon cooked
goat cheese
2 big tomatoes (we used yellow)
3 T olive oil
juice from one lemon
2 T of honey

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