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.