For such a light, bright, colorful few months — summer is the season that makes the biggest statement, but also the season that blasts on through the quickest. But with the blasting comes the overgrown lawns, neighborhood walks at 9:45 p.m. when it’s still light out (!) and dinners consisting of heaping servings of strawberry crisp. Or how about the impromptu sidewalk picnics at lunchtime or the beautiful, blooming Dogwood trees lining the block? Seattle, maybe a little more than some sunnier cities, waits hard for this time of year. I’d like for you all to know that I’ve locked the winter coat away for good, and while the raincoat is definitely making an appearance of late, I hope not to look at a stitch of fleece for a good few months. And to eat more berry crisp for dinner — which brings us all here right now.
I received Kimberly’s new cookbook, Vibrant Food, in the mail a few weeks ago and one of the recipes that immediately jumped out at me was the Summer Berry and Peach Crisp. I met Kimberly through her blog The Year in Food; we both had friends and cities in common and she’s so genuine that we hit it off right away. In addition to recipe development, Kimberly is a super talented photographer, so it’s no surprise this book is a beauty, and there are so many recipes I can’t wait to make (Sweet Corn and Squash Fritters, Summer Squash Pasta with Green Goddess Dressing, Almond Honey Cake with Poached Quince). It’s organized seasonally and further categorized by produce or ingredient, so it’s not only beautiful but also useful — the best kind of books.
When I sat down to glance at the crisp recipe, I knew peaches would be a stretch, but I’ve been trading Marge Granola for flats of strawberries at the end of each farmers market lately, so I knew we could easily be in business. With the back door wide open and a nice evening breeze accompanying me in the kitchen, I was off — mixing berries with a little lemon juice, working butter into a simple mixture of oats and nuts and greasing our cast-iron skillet (I decided to bake our crisp in a skillet instead of a more traditional casserole dish). It came out of the oven bubbling hot and fragrant at about 7 p.m. and the sun was shining and our picnic table beckoned, and there’s a chance it became dinner. And that it was enjoyed right out of the pan.
It’s my sincere hope there will be much more of that this summer. I’ve been making a list of books and podcasts and all kinds of travel and summer-related links to share with you, so more of that soon. But for now, let’s eat skillet berry crisp. Right out of the pan.
A few quick recipe notes: Kimberly’s recipe calls for a variety of fruits but you could certainly make this with any fruit you like, or more of one than another. Essentially if you have about 5 – 5 1/2 cups of fruit you’re good to go here. Because I’ve been a little crazy about sugar lately I used a little less sugar than the recipe called for and I ended up using 1 cup of quinoa flakes in the topping. If you can’t find these, certainly use oats instead. But I love their little hit of protein and they work into the cold butter so beautifully. Last, because I was too lazy to go out and buy almonds (what Kimberly suggests), I used hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds here for the nuts. Use any nuts you’d like — just keep the proportions about the same. Pecans would be great as would walnuts.
Adapted from: Vibrant Food
For the Filling:
For the Topping
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the berries with the sugar, lemon juice, flour and ginger. Pour the fruit filling into a shallow 2 to 2 1/2-quart baking dish (or large oven-proof skillet!)
Make the topping: In another large bowl, combine the oats, nuts and seeds, hazelnut meal, brown sugar, salt and spices. Add the butter and use your fingers to work the dry ingredients and butter together to form a loose mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crisp is golden brown and bubbling at the edges. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Right out of the pan, or in small bowls topped with ice cream if you’d like.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.