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.
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.