Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring is in the air

Today was 65 degrees and sunny. All of a sudden, the dim, slanted light of winter has softened to the broad, embracing light of spring. The grass up on Tank Hill near our house is bright green and sweet from all the recent rain, and at any given time you'll see little herds of dogs (including Frances) standing around and chewing it like baby cows. People are wearing shorts and flipflops.

Now, before anyone who lives somewhere where it's season-appropriately cold gets upset, keep in mind that we get no summer. From June through August, San Francisco is cold and foggy. When people all over the country are getting suntans and cooling off at the local pool, we're wearing wool sweaters and down vests, turning up the heat, and soothing chapped lips against the wind. When you're grilling burgers in July, I'm making beef stew. Instead of a normal summer, we get odd little heat waves throughout the year. Usually one comes in February, and this year is no different.

With the advent of spring in mind, last night I made a pasta I've made many times before, one I've adapted to my own tastes. For one thing, I rarely have white wine around, so I always use red. For another, the recipe calls for artichoke hearts. The first few times, that's what I used, too. But then it hit me, after decades of eating artichoke hearts: I don't really like them very much. They're often kind of tangy and fibrous and not nearly as great as I always think they're going to be. I don't know why it took me 36 years to come to this realization. I guess I'm a slow learner.

I now substitute peas for the artichokes, which add sweetness and take less time to cook. Last night I also noticed too late that I didn't have any chicken broth so I skipped the simmering step altogether. What emerged was a lighter, brighter version of a favorite winter dish: a springier version if you will.

This recipe has a nice balance of saltiness from the sausage, chewiness from the sundried tomatoes, sweetness from the peas, richness from the fresh mozzarella that you fold in at the end, and fresh herbiness from the basil and parsley.

Don't you think the colors are cheerful? They make you want to dive in! Kind of the way spring makes me feel: happy, and full of possibility.


  1. mmm,the fresh basil and parsley with sundried tomatoes definitely make me think of summer... I'm enjoying our little heatwaver too - it's just too nice to be cooped up inside!

  2. what a wonderfully beautiful dish! peas as a replacement for artichokes adds more color, better flavor, and a more enjoyable texture--right on!
    now, send some of that heat wave my way!

  3. Ahhhhhhhh... Spring!

    If it would only hurry up and come. Here in Georgia, it looks like spring ~ sunny, cloudless days, but the temperature due to wind has it in the mid-40's.

    Your delicious pasta is definitely something I will try, as I look out my window with the heat set at 70 degrees.

  4. Doesn't bother me that we have snow on the ground while you have 65 degree weather. Especially since I don't pay for heat in my new apartment. ;)

    The pasta looks great! Love the fresh mozzarella in there, that stuff is a good time.

  5. braggart... spring is no where close... But i am leaving soon, so i can take it

    love the pasta

  6. I'm with you on the artichoke hearts! (Unless I've cooked and cleaned them myself, which is a lot of work.) Hooray for (almost) spring!

  7. Can you believe this great weather? I even saw people wearing shorts in the South Bay. How crazy is that? For me, a good pasta is welcomed no matter what the weather. I'm digging a fork into that bowl right now.

  8. Sounds wonderful! It's started to edge towards autumn/fall over here. Stew time :) The pasta sounds like the perfect light dinner - I like peas in pasta too. Can't say I really enjoy artichoke hearts either, will eat it if it's served but don't buy it for myself.

  9. LOL, Hungry Dog, I have a lovely collection of sweaters that I bought in SF on trips there during July and August. Impossible to pack a sweater when it's 95 out! I think that it was Mark Twain who said "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco". HOWEVER, I don't like hot weather (good thing, since I now live in Belgium!), so I'll take SF any day. It's one of my favorite places.

    This pasta looks delicious. Adding mozzarella at the end is a great idea! Thanks for posting this.

    LOOK at those photos. YOWza.

  10. Yum! I always love your pasta recipes. This is a great combination!

  11. What a beautiful and colourful pasta. It looks absolutely delicious.
    *kisses* HH

  12. Thanks, everyone. It's a great recipe and so versatile. Giada says the mozzarella is "optional," though, to which I say, "No, it isn't."

  13. Good grief, it's warmer there than it is in South Florida!

    Nice salad...and yes, colorful as well as delicious. Giada is forever raving about color; it's really important in a presentation, don't you agree? I have some recipes that are wonderful, but so colorless looking than I don't bother posting them. (but we do eat them!)
    Have you read any of Jane Gardam's books? Think you might like Old Filth (read it first-his story) and Man in the Wooden Hat (her story). Loved those books.

  14. What??? You don't like artichoke hearts? But they're so spring! If you eat it fresh they're the best. Hey, I even like them canned or marinated in oil. I just made a chicken paella with fresh artichoke that I hand peeled and cut just to toss in the paella. Hmmm. Anywho, I like peas too so they're a good substitute. Your pasta dish looks really fresh and light. Hope you enjoyed spring while it lasted! ;-)

  15. Barbara: I don't know Jane Gardam, I will have to check her out. Thanks! And I too have my share of colorless but tasty dinners that don't make it to the blog...don't we all!

    Ben: well, I don't mind them that much. I certainly prefer them fresh to canned or frozen. But dealing with them fresh seems like a hassle and I am LAZY.

  16. Hungry Dog,
    It's bright, colorful and looks absolutely delicious! Nice job.
    I was in San Francisco the other day, I smelled spring in the air, the primroses were beautiful and the grass around Yerba Buena was lush and green. Flowers are everywhere. Lucky you to be in SFO this time of year!