Ah, the week of reckoning. I don’t know about you, but the last week in December brings about hope and regret in equal measure.
Let’s start with the regret. It can be as simple as
“Why did I eat that? Why, oh, why did I eat that? Or so much of it?”
Those dastardly scales tell the tale. This is possibly the easiest regret to remedy. It’s an age-old formula: Eat less. Exercise more. Let’s see how we can complicate that by spending more money on a new diet book (the hope part) and then recall how we already overspent (the regret part, piled upon the first regret part.)
Then there are the other regrets. I stopped counting the things that didn’t happen that I had hoped for this year.
Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles,
I say to myself as kindly as possible. These are not so easy to remedy, but there is no currency in hashing them over. So, I am going to take a very deep breath and think:
Things are no more imperfect this week than they usually are; I am just pulling out the scales—and I don’t mean the ones I step on most mornings. If am hard on myself all year long, I can have a really good beat-myself-up fest at the end of the year just for good measure. This year I don’t want to give in to that.
I have decided to focus on hope. I’ve revised the way I think of that, too. I’m trying not to hope for specifics, such as a huge influx of cash (oops, I’m always hoping for that). Instead, I guess you could say, I’m hoping for more peace. Wherever the chips fall, please God, let me be at peace with it. That is not to say that I won’t peddle as fast as I can to try for the things I need and want, but I would like, just for once, to be satisfied with and grateful for whatever comes of my efforts.
That narrows my new year’s resolutions to one. So much easier to keep track of one.
As for the eat less, exercise more bit, that’s not so much a resolution as a way of life. It’s kind of ongoing, and I am always trying to recommit to it. So, in that vein, I offer you a recipe for a quick, easy pasta with shrimp that is also very healthy. You can make it:
During a snow storm
When you have not gone shopping again
, but have stashed some shrimp in your freezer, and manage to have some olives, too.
When you have leftover shrimp cocktail from your New Year’s Eve party
When you convince yourself that the skinny strands of angel hair pasta will make you skinny too
When you really can’t think of what else to make and have almost no time in which to make it
When you are trying to counter balance all the unhealthy meals you just consumed (you could even buy whole wheat pasta if you want to be a good doobie)
Since shrimp arrive in our markets frozen, you should buy them that way and defrost them yourself (overnight in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes) unless you are certain you will be cooking them on the same day you purchase them. A stash of shrimp in the freezer can help with a last minute dinner dilemma, too. (You can skip the fennel in an emergency, but try not to.)
To determine how many pounds you need, look for a number, which is more meaningful than a “large” or “jumbo” label. For example “U-15” stand for “under 15,” which means fewer than 15 per pound; “10/15” means there are between ten and fifteen shrimp per pound. This knowledge puts you in the driver’s seat when you are deciding upon the size you want.
A quick homemade tomato sauce is much more satisfying than that tired old sauce from a jar, and it tastes a lot cleaner and fresher too. Buy good quality whole tomatoes like San Marzano (I like Bella, which I buy locally) and break them up in a bowl with your hands. Don’t get me started on those cans of ‘crushed tomatoes.” I don’t like them one bit because the are dense and heavy and will not give you the clean and lovely taste of tomatoes that a good can of plain ol’ San Marzanos will.
Angel hair pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and olives (Serves 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut in thin slices
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 can (28-ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1 pound angel hair pasta
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
12 very large peeled shrimp, cooked or uncooked, cut in half on a sharp diagonal
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. In a large (12-inch) skillet with deep sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook until it begins to soften but does not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook at a gentle simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for two minutes, until it is tender but still has a little bite. Drain in a colander.
3. Add the olives and shrimp to the tomato sauce and stir over medium heat. If you are using cooked shrimp, cook until hot through, about 1 minute. If you are using uncooked shrimp, add them and cook a little longer, until they are opaque in the center. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
4. Toss the sauce with the pasta and divide among four shallow bowls. Sprinkle each with chopped parsley.
p.s. the sauce is really good as an omelet filling or with scrambled or poached eggs, if you have any left