I love a generous wedge of pie—gooey berries or peach slices nestled beneath a perfectly flakey butter crust. I dream of making one now and then. But in the end I usually skip the rolling and crimping and go with a loose sweet crumble topping instead. If you stand firmly in the team pie camp, you might disagree, but in my casual way of cooking, there’s no better summer dessert than a fresh fruit crisp.
For sheer simplicity crisps have my loyalty. There’s really not much to it. Start by making the topping—a loose mixture of cubed butter, flour (use a gluten-free mix if you like) and sugar worked together with a pair of clean hands until it resembles moist sand littered with soft, flour-coated butter pebbles. Load a pie pan or casserole dish with ripe, seasonal fruit (berries or sliced peaches/nectarines are favorites) tossed with a generous spoonful or two of sugar and pile the coarse sand-duney crumble over the fruit. Bake until the craggy topping is golden brown with occasional puddles of molten filling oozing through the open crannies. A crisp is as easy as pie to pull together—just more so. And absolutely irresistible.
Depending on where you’re from you’ll probably know this dessert as a crisp or a crumble. Though if you prefer to pat the pebbles together into smooth biscuit dough you might call it a cobbler, slump or grunt. There are Bettys, too. What we call it matters less than the ease with which fresh, ripe fruit goes into the oven and comes out, decadent dessert. Cool slightly before serving and enjoy with a dollop of cream or ice cream on top.
Here are two crisp variations we enjoy throughout the summer. Instead of peaches, substitute nectarines, or try a mixture of berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries (even better if you’ve picked the berries yourselves).
Quick tips for the week:
Cube cucumbers and toss with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cilantro, parsley or basil, cubed feta cheese and kalamata olives. Dress with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Add carrots if you like.
Grill or sauté zucchini slices dressed in a bit of olive oil. Toss with chopped garlic, sliced scallions, a splash of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Great with cubed tofu as well.
Sauté zucchini with minced garlic and olive oil. Cool, then toss in a bowl with torn basil or mint and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and grated lemon zest. Add drained, canned white beans to the sauté pan to create a main dish. You can also add a few dollops of fresh ricotta.
Add sliced nectarines to a green salad. Or toss with tomato wedges, sliced red onion and fresh mozzarella, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Cooked farro, rice, quinoa or other whole grains mixed with ripe nectarines and chopped arugula create a healthy side dish. Add a handful of fresh herbs like mint, parsley or basil and a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
Grill zucchini and layer on toasted bread with sliced tomatoes, lettuce and onion. Better yet, spread some soft goat cheese on the bread first.
Dandelion greens can taste bitter. Try blanching the leaves lightly in water before adding to a sauté with minced garlic.
Carrots and parsley are a classic combination. Add them to a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette dressing. If you enjoy raw dandelion greens, chop a few leaves and add to the mix. The mixture of two contrasting leaves, one mild and one stronger, will balance each other well.