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.
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.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.