I’ve had this recipe in the hopper for a few weeks, thinking I’d stagger it out and share it with you in a bit as we’re traveling to see family back East. But yesterday on the drive back from the Adirondacks to my mom’s house in Vermont, we saw a handful of crimson leaves and signs for cider donuts and I thought: Now Is The Time. I hope you still have some fresh corn where you are and some late summer berries because this incredibly simple late summer fruit crisp is the best thing I’ve baked this season. Let’s talk about it.
I subscribe to a few food magazines and have an odd, inefficient system when a recipe catches my attention: I fold down the page first and then toss the magazine aside somewhere. Eventually I go back through, tearing out the pages I folded down and recycling the rest of the magazine. Then at long last, the little snipped recipes get filed away in a haphazard binder and I generally forget all about them. I try to keep like with like, so cookies are together with bars, and there’s a little biscuit section. I have a few pages on making the best two-day meat ragu in case a large chunk of time should open up in a day in which I’d find myself inspired to do so (this has yet to occur). But a few recipes remain in my lingering seasonal memory, and this is one of them.
This Berry Corn Crisp from Bon Appetit caught my eye first for its simplicity and second thanks to the interesting addition of fresh corn in the cornmeal topping. I knew I could tweak it, adding some whole grain flour, cutting back on the sugar a bit and throwing in some ripe September peaches.
It was quite warm in Seattle the week leading up to our trip, and turning on the oven to bake a crisp wasn’t something I would’ve advised. But once it cooled, Sam deemed this the best fruit dessert I’d ever made and we had it with ice cream for dinner sitting outside deadheading the roses, watering the lawn, and noticing the changing light.
A simple late summer dessert, this crisp is not too sweet so it doubles as breakfast in our house. To mix things up, use any berries you’d like — or really, any mix of fruit. I think the crisp is best the day it’s made but you can certainly make it up to 1 day in advance. If you don’t have spelt flour, feel free to use whole wheat pastry or whole wheat flour instead.
Adapted from: Bon Appetit
For the filling:
For the Crust:
Toss blueberries, peaches, sugar, lemon juice and zest, cornstarch and salt into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands, work butter into dry ingredients until there aren’t any dry spots of flour left and mixture holds together when squeezed (ok if it’s a bit chunky). Add corn and toss to evenly distribute. Press topping between your fingers and break into large pieces over the filling.
Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if you’d like. Crisp can be made 1 day ahead; store covered at room temperature.
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.