It was dark this morning. Overcast. Windy. Yet it won’t rain. Why won’t it rain?! I feel like I used to happily read a book on my back porch while listening to fat raindrops pelting down upon the glass at least once a week. This isn’t the case anymore, and it makes me nervous.
But the selfish part of me is the teeniest, tiniest bit pleased that it’s not raining quite yet. It’s just now becoming the perfect temperature for eating outside. And after reading that, you’re probably wondering if I’ve gotten a little forgetful, as outdoor dining seems to be all I can Instagram about these past few months. But hear me out: last night I was at dinner, drinking rosé and dipping crispy fries in garlicky mussel broth. I was sitting outside, but for the first time in months I wasn’t slapping at mosquitoes or surreptitiously wiping away sweaty strands of hair. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! Every few minutes there was a little breeze rustling the stamped-paper tablecloths. It felt cool against my back. It made the food taste better.
The sun is out now– it never rained. I went running, even though I definitely drank a glass or two more of wine than I should’ve last night. Mile one. Mile two. Mile three. A little bit more so I could run through the sprinklers of folks who are still watering their lawns EVEN THOUGH WE’RE IN A DROUGHT (I know Montclair is not California but still.) Ran up my driveway, opened the freezer and defrosted some fruity, herby crisp. Ate it all with my fingers, dyeing them a truly alien shade of purple. Full disclosure, it was not the one pictured in this post. That one was devoured by yours truly and Emily (making another hand/general modeling appearance here) on a lazy afternoon a few months ago. But I did use this method to make the crisp. And it is the best.
Just FYI, the following recipe is a little different than the precise measurements one may expect to find in a food post. But I rarely, if ever, use a recipe for crisp. And you shouldn’t feel like you need to either! It couldn’t be more simple, read on and discover.
Herby Summer Fruit Crisp (serves as few as one or as many as 20, depending on serving size)
Things you’ll need, see directions for further clues:
a little bit of sweetener plus about 1/4 cup more for later
Vanilla (extract, paste, or scraped bean)
~1/2 cup coconut oil
~1/2 cup nondairy milk
~1/4-1/2 cup flour
pinch or two of kosher salt and cinnamon or allspice
Select and prep your fruit. You’ll need enough fruit to fill your desired baking dish, but no need to get out the measuring cup. Just start slicing and stop when it feels right. In terms of which fruit to use: when in doubt, go with whatever is in season. The fruit is the shining star of this dessert, so it’s definitely worth it to look into what is thriving when you decide to make one. Check out a farmer’s market or do some internet sleuthing before spending all your money on bushels of out-of-season berries. You also shouldn’t feel pressure to make just one kind of fruit crisp: raspberries and peaches go beautifully together, as do apples and cranberries. Or you can do what I did and use as many perfect summer fruits as you can carry. Once you’ve added all the fruit to the baking dish, toss with a good dash of vanilla and a tablespoon or two of the sweetener of your choice (really, anything goes!) and a tablespoon of cornstarch. Set aside.
Decide which herb you want to use to add a little extra zing to the topping. It may sound strange, but it is worth it. A subtle hint of thyme, mint, basil, sage, or rosemary does wonders with fruit. Grab a sprig or a handful of leaves and chop well; you won’t be sorry.
Pick your desired dairy replacer. Far be it from me to suggest anything that challenges the gospel of Julia Child, but for a delicious fruit crisp you need neither dairy-based butter nor cream. I like to use unrefined coconut oil because I enjoy the taste, but any vegan butter will do. You’ll need about ½ cup. Now for milk: pour about ½ cup of the dairy-free milk of your choosing (almond! coconut! soy! hemp!) into a small saucepan. Add the butter and the herb you decided on in the previous step. Place over low heat until the butter melts and the kitchen smells herby. Let cool slightly.
Choose your flour. If you’re gluten-free, this part is for you. Though I will admit, I didn’t miss my trusty all-purpose nearly as much as I thought I would when trying out almond, garbanzo bean, and coconut flours. Go for about a cup of flour at first, you can always add more later. Mix the flour with however much sugar you feel is right. A good rule of thumb is to start with ¼ cup and work your way up to ½ cup. At this point, I throw in a few handfuls of rolled oats and sometimes chopped almonds or pecans for texture. Pour the non-dairy mixture over the flour, adding a good pinch or two of salt and cinnamon or allspice. Mix it all up with your fingers until coarse crumbs form, adding more flour or oats if things get sticky.
Put it all together! Dump the topping over the fruit, resisting the urge to fill in any imperfect spots. We’re making a rustic dessert here, people! Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Top with your favorite ice cream or coconut whipped cream. Or if you’re like me, you may even put it in a bowl and drown it in almond milk and pretend it’s breakfast.