Updated: Feb 29, 2020
(by Kim Marshall)
For most of my childhood, my family—brother, sister, and Mom—lived with Mom's parents in Ohio. Grandpa made us plant a garden, and we sure got the benefit, deep in our cells, of all those fresh and freshly canned veggies. Gram even canned the pears from a tree in our back yard. Buckwheat pancakes–with gravy!–on weekend mornings. Beefsteak tomatoes so good that my mom would sit in the garden with a saltshaker and eat them right from the vine. Rhubarb that grew alongside the barn was stewed with sugar—I loved it so much that I once tried licking remnants off the kitchen counter and chipped a tooth.
Everyone was welcome at the table. One of the oldest of 13 children, Gram would stand at the sink and, looking out the kitchen window with a big smile, ask, “Who just drove in?” since cars were always heard on the gravel driveway. “Pull up a chair,” she’d tell my aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, or church friends. Years later, when I moved to Los Angeles, I tried dropping in on a few friends. It didn’t take long to learn that we weren’t in Ohio anymore.
It was never in my mom’s realm to cook—she was the glamorous one, an executive secretary going to the office in a sweater with a mink collar (which I still have). But she remarried when I was 14 and happily gave up working—her office sent out a newsletter that said, “Iverna has a new boss.” Unfortunately she did not inherit Gram’s cooking genes. She filled her crock-pot with concoctions based on dried onion soup and canned mushroom soup. We ate a lot of Bisquick, fish sticks, and “heavenly hash”—a Jello mold made with marshmallows and Cool Whip.
I went to work right after college and didn’t cook. A therapist identified that I was the kind of woman who “ate to live” rather than “lived to eat.” Since I worked in luxury hotels, I got to partake in often lavish restaurants—there were meals with tuna belly flown in from Japan and sliced into buttery, smooth sashimi, laid in a small, hand-carved ice igloo. But I kept things simple in my own kitchen. Sometimes dinner at home was cottage cheese and steamed broccoli on a baked potato. When I did marry, I received some cookbooks as a wedding present and decided to pry them open. I’m a good study, so my family has eaten pretty well—sorry, Mom, no Bisquick. And there’s always an extra plate for anyone who might surprise us with a visit—yes, even in L.A.
Fusilli with Chicken Sausage, Cabbage, and Tomatoes
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma) 6 T. extra virgin olive oil 1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced 1 lb. green, red, or Savoy cabbage, trimmed and cut into julienne strips 10 oz. ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 large can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped salt and freshly ground pepper 10 oz. chicken sausage, crumbled 1 lb. fusilli or other corkscrew-shaped pasta
grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste In large frying pan, heat 3 T. olive oil over medium heat.
Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds.
Add cabbage and continue sautéing for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir well, cover pan with lid slightly ajar, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid evaporates, about 40 minutes. In small frying pan, heat remaining 3 T. olive oil over medium heat.
Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of salted water to boil.
Add fusilli and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and arrange on warm platter.
Pour cabbage sauce over pasta and toss well.
Sprinkle with crumbled sausage, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes.