good craic

Sometimes, and it’s rare, but sometimes during ‘Insanity’ my mind wanders …  & such a thing happened yesterday (I did two work outs, the first being Max Recovery, and I have a much less vitriolic mock conversation with Shaun T. during recovery work outs).

I was hungry.  I mean, really hungry, because when I’m gasping for breath and dripping with sweat and every muscle in my body is burning, it’s rare that I think about food.  Mostly I think about when the craziness will end.  So I must have been ravenous.

To be truthful, I was thinking about my days as a competitive swimmer (YMCA and high school teams), which lasted a few years until my shoulders gave out, and the doctors were like, ‘yeah, you should probably stop swimming if you want to be able to use your arms normally for the rest of your life’.  I was thinking about swimming NOT because it was boilingly hot outside and the idea of bobbing around in a body of cool water would be refreshing ~ no, no, not I.  I was thinking about how we used to carb-load the night before a meet. (Told you I was hungry).

Back in the day, eating pasta was right up there with eating ketchup for me.  I did not enjoy carb-loading before a meet. Luckily, after living in Italy for six months (study abroad in college), my thoughts on pasta have been amended.

I still thought it was weird that on a hot summer day, while doing an ‘Insanity’ work out, I was thinking about a huge bowl of pasta. But, once the idea got into my head, I was hooked.  As I did lunges, and leg lifts, and thing-o’s (not the technical term, obviously) to work the obliques, I mentally went through my kitchen food inventory.

Pasta with shrimp.

Pasta with shrimp and fresh basil.

Pasta with shrimp, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella.

Oh!  Pasta with shrimp, fresh basil, PINE NUTS, and fresh mozzarella.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t wait for dinner.  And dinner was a long way off.  I did my second work out (I missed last Sunday, so I wanted to catch up in order to have my one day off this Saturday. Considering it’s John’s 30th this weekend, I thought it would be nice if he didn’t have to sit through my work outs.  Shaun T. is great and all, but not as much if you’re only observing the workouts).  I did actual work (who’d’ve thunk it?). Then John came home, and we went on a walk (according to ‘My Fitness Pal,’ -the app on my iPhone that I diligently use to count calories and workouts-I burned 1835 calories … that’s 635 more calories than I’m supposed to be eating ~ needless to say, I ate over 1200 yesterday, and it was worth it!).

Then, my friends, then I started dinner.

It was a project.  I had no recipe, and only sort of an idea of how I wanted it to turn out ~ but that’s what made it fun!

What I used:

Half a box of linguine.

1 12 oz. bag of medium-sized frozen shrimp

~ 1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 large ball of fresh mozzarella

Portobello stems (I’d saved them from the Portobello En Croute I made ~ I’d read in “Portobello” by Jack Czarnecki that there’s a lot of flavor in the stems, so I’d wrapped them up and put them in the fridge for ‘later use’ … which turned out to be yesterday).

*** I would approximate 3-4 Baby Bellas depending on their size as a perfectly acceptable substitute for my stems.  In fact, that’s what I will have to use next time I make this, because I won’t have two gi-normous portobello stems in my fridge!

1 shallot

3 Tbsp butter

1/3 cup Olive Oil

Hand-full of fresh basil (picked out of the garden)

1 clove garlic, pushed through press (or finely minced if you don’t have a press)

Salt & Pepper

What I did:

1.  I thawed the shrimp (which were pre-cooked) and de-tailed them.  I know that a lot of people & restaurants like to leave the tails on (for aesthetic purposes, I believe), but there is not much about having to pick through my food with my fingers that I find enjoyable.

2.  I diced up the fresh mozzarella into bite size pieces.

3.  I cleaned the basil leaves and ripped the larger ones in half.




4.  In a small saucepan, I melted 1 tbsp butter, then added the pine nuts, and cooked them over medium heat until the pine nuts browned.  I emptied them into a bowl, and put to the side with the shrimp, mozzarella and basil.  *** Keep the saucepan out, tho’ because you can use it once more before relegating it to the dishwasher/sink for cleaning. 

5.  I filled up a large pot with water, added a sprinkle of salt, and turned it on to boil (for pasta-cooking purposes).

6.  While I waited for the water to boil, I got out my mini Cuisinart food processor (I just love it for when I have to dice up small amounts of things) and put in the portobello stems (cut into large pieces to aid in the chopping process) and the shallot (cut into quarters for the same reason).  I hit ‘grind’ and waited until everything was evenly chopped into coarse pieces.

7.  I put the ground up mushrooms and shallot into the small saucepan I used to brown the pine nuts, along with the last two tablespoons of butter (I added separately while stirring, but I’m not sure it matters one way or the other).  Over medium heat, I allowed the mushroom & shallot mixture to cook down while stirring in the butter.  When done, I put aside.

8.  In a large saucepan, I poured the olive oil and added the fresh garlic and a couple grinds of salt & pepper.  I then added the shrimp, and stirred them into the mixture over medium-low heat.  Once the shrimp had warmed up, I stirred in the fresh basil and mushroom mixture.

9.  It was at about this time that the water was boiling, so I put half a box of linguine in the pot, and diligently followed the directions on how to cook it (mine took about 10 minutes, and I left the shrimp/basil/mushroom mixture on low heat, and stirred occasionally).

10.  When the pasta was cooked, I drained in a colander, and shook out as much of the moisture as I could.  I then added it to the large saucepan, and mixed it up with my olive oil/shrimp/basil sauce.

11. Once those ingredients were suitably mixed together, I stirred in the pine nuts, and turned off the heat.

12.  The last thing I stirred in was the mozzarella, after I’d removed everything from the heat.  The warmth of the pasta and the sauce melted it sufficiently, but not too much that it turned into a stringy/gooey mess.

Voila!  It was delicious, and John and I slurped up every last bite.  We even ate our last ripe avocado on the side (I am pretty sure I could eat avocado every day, given the opportunity).

As  a little sidenote, the title of this blog is ‘good craic,’ which is an inherently British expression, and one that my mother’s side of the family uses often.  Loosely translated, it means a good, fun, enjoyable conversation or activity. I blasphemed my Scottish roots by using the Irish spelling, because the Scottish spelling is ‘crack,’ and I didn’t want anyone to think this post was about drugs.  (I’m pretty anti).

But, in a nut shell, last night’s dinner was good crack (I’m proud of my Scottish roots!).

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