Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stormy night crumble

I haven't gone blueberry picking yet this summer. It's always on my summer to-do list, but somehow it hasn't happened yet, maybe because of our continued monsoon climate. But last Saturday at the farmer's market, I bought 2 pints, thinking I would make some nice blueberry dessert.

Somehow, I managed not to just eat all the blueberries, sitting so temptingly in my fridge, and today, I used the fabulous Food Blog Search and scrolled through pages and pages of delicious blueberry-related recipes--cakes and pies and tarts and muffins. Did I decide to make any of them? Well, no. I did mark a bunch of recipes for later, but instead, for tonight, I returned to my very old standard, blueberry-peach crumble.

1989 was the summer of crumble. I had just graduated from college and was housesitting for the summer with a bunch of friends, and we made crumble nearly every night. Sometimes, we would make it til 10 p.m. or so, feeling very restrained, and then we'd give in and make a late night crumble, just because we could.

There's something very comforting about making something you've made a zillion times before. I think of my various kitchens, I think of all the various people I've eaten crumble with over the years. I made a crumble for my first date with Alex in 2001. We knew each other casually but not well, and he'd invited me over for dinner. It was August, crumble season, and I offered to bring dessert. It was not the most successful dinner as dinners went, which has nothing to do with his cooking and everything to do with my pickiness. He knew I was a vegetarian and had made me this lovely Japanese meal, with soup with soba noodles and tofu with a dipping sauce and daikon. The soup was in lovely little bowls, and there were blue glasses. The problem is that I am a vegetarian who hates tofu, and I don't like daikon much either. (I did like the soba noodles, at least.) But clearly, he'd gone to all this effort to make this lovely meal, and I felt terrible, especially because it would have been easy to say that I didn't like tofu ahead of time. But I'd brought the crumble for dessert, and it turned out that peaches and blueberries were his favorite combination, and we ate it, and things worked themselves out after that.

So, on this rainy August afternoon that morphed into a stormy August evening, I went down to the kitchen and went through my very familiar routine--blanching peaches, rinsing blueberries, melting butter, measuring flour and sugar and oats. I like that it's such a casual and forgiving recipe and that you'd have to do something really dramatically bad to it for it not to taste good. My peaches weren't perfectly ripe, for example, but I knew that the time in the oven would take care of that. (A month or so ago, I made this breakfast apricot crisp from Smitten Kitchen, and the only apricots I could find were from Trader Joe's. Some were too ripe and some weren't ripe enough, and the rest were mealy. Really, not a stellar batch of apricots. But after some time in the oven, they'd broken down into this sticky, jammy, apricot mush that was quite delicious.)

I usually like to put walnuts in the topping, but meal moths have been wreaking havoc in my cabinets, and the only suitable nuts the moths hadn't gotten into were slivered almonds, so I threw some of those in instead. I also put some lemon zest in, which I usually don't do. But a few years ago on my birthday, we went out for a fancy dinner. Most of the dinner wasn't that memorable, but the dessert--something with lemon and blueberries--was fabulous. We'd restrainedly only ordered one to share. Strangely, while we were eating, the waiter appeared and asked if we knew the name of King Lear's third daughter. There was Cordelia, of course, and there was Regan . . . "Goneril," I said, former English major that I am. "Goneril, of course, thanks," he said and went back to the kitchen. We both stared after him, but we weren't quick enough because really, in exchange for my literary knowledge, we both thought we deserved another dessert. By the time he came out again, the moment had passed. Alas, that restaurant is now closed, so we can't even go back and see if it's still on the menu.

Anyway, this recipe is wonderfully flexible and adaptable. I took the basic proportions from Molly Katzen's recipe for Summer Fruit Crumble in Still Life with Menu and adapted it from there. (Crumble isn't crumble to me without oatmeal in the topping, and her original only has flour.)

Alex came over this evening, and we ate the first ratatouille of the season (another farmer's market/garden amalgamation) with cous cous and bread. And then, of course, there was the crumble, predictably and reliably delicious. The stains on my tablecloth at both of our places are testament to its soupy goodness.

Even though I can't believe it's already August and I'm wanting to slow time down and stretch things out just a little bit, there are things that August is certainly good for, and one of them is that summer fruit is abundant, and you can make crumble every single night if you want to.

Summer Fruit Crumble
Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Still Life with Menu

3-4 cups sliced fresh peaches, apricots, or plums, or a combination
(I usually use 5-6 peaches)

2-3 cups berries
(I use 1 1/2 pints blueberries.)

1/2 cup, plus 1 tbsp. white flour

1 cup rolled oats

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

3 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4-1/3 cup nuts (chopped walnuts or sliced almonds)

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) melted butter

zest of one lemon (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 375

2) Combine fruit in a bowl. Toss with 1 tbsp. flour and the granulated sugar.
Transfer to a medium size baking pan (8 or 9 inches square, or a small rectangle)

3) Combine oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, salt, nuts and melted butter. Distribute over the pan of fruit and pat into place

4) Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the fruit bubbly. Let cool at least 10-15 minutes, then serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Ohhh. I'm going to have to make one of those this weekend. Thanks for that.