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.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.