Seasonal Flavors: Grandma’s Brunch

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I am a lucky woman. I bore three children. They each flew the nest at about 18 years old, had some adventures, and within about ten years they returned to the Charlottesville area to settle and raise their own broods. And though two of the three travel extensively for work, at least for now, they live nearby.

But we all know that even when family and friends are near, one can become preoccupied with life and its fullness, and not manage to see each other without a clear plan. Think about the people you love and how you don’t always see them as much as you wish you did.

Therefore, several years ago, I introduced “Grandmother’s Brunch.” I hold it nearly every Sunday and tell the children, “Everyone is welcome and no one is expected.” In other words: I’ll cook and you can come, but no hard feelings if you have other plans, or aren’t at home.  The rules are: guests (the kids) bring nothing, and there is no expectation that they are to help with clean up. My point being that I want them to drop by but still have time for the soccer games, the birthday parties, and the picnicking with friends that often occupy the weekend days of young families. This is to be fun, and not a burden or additional obligation.

I learned fairly early that I cannot provide the usual brunch fare. My grandchildren are young and so rise early. Their parents have already made the eggs, the yogurt, the pancakes or granola. What they need, even at 10 a.m., when we usually gather, is a substantial Sunday meal. So even though it’s morning, we are eating roast beef, or chicken, or burritos. And coffee. Lots of strong coffee.

It’s a great weekly check-in, everyone talking at once, as is our custom (to the chagrin of certain of the in-laws). We eat, we visit, we laugh and then they leave. The entire enterprise is usually over by 1 p.m. and I’m left with a pile of dishes and my Sunday crossword puzzle. I love it.

One of my sons really knows which side his bread is buttered on, and so ALWAYS exclaims “Mom, this is the best meal ever!” no matter what I’m serving. But when he said it about this meal, I think he was sincere.  This may not be what your family wants to eat on Sunday morning, but we consider it a winner. I’ve pared it to four servings for your convenience.  I usually make enough for 8-12. 

Sausage and Orzo

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 pound link sausage
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 sweet peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½ pound orzo pasta
  • 1 tsp salt

Serves 4. Begin by putting a large pot of water on to boil, for the orzo.

Put a small amount of olive oil into a large frying pan and sauté the sausage, but before it is completely cooked, remove from the pan and slice diagonally into bite-size pieces. Return to the pan to continue cooking. Add sliced peppers, cook for five minutes, add the onion and minced garlic. Add a small amount of additional oil as necessary. When the meat and vegetables are thoroughly cooked, add the spinach and stir, allowing it to wilt. Add the wine and continue to cook gently.

Add the orzo and the salt to boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Drain the orzo and add directly to the skillet of sausage and vegetables. Serve with crusty bread.

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