If you live in Colorado, the weather is often the topic of conversation. Like now. The rest of the country is looking forward to a warm Labor Day holiday weekend and, while we in Colorado are sort of doing the same, we also have our eyes stuck on the forecast for Monday night and Tuesday:
Truly, perfectly sunny fall days are still in our future, but we know this first shock of cold will kill the basil and seriously harm any vegetables still trying to ripen—uh, like all of our tomatoes except the cherry ones. We planted bunches of large pots of tomatoes that live on the sunny east deck all summer just for this reason. We can put a tarp down in the living room, bring all the plants in, and hope to take them back out during the day for a week or two. Or we can simply toss a tarp on top of them all held down by bricks, praying for a break. Builds character, right?
The chances are it won’t work and many have memories of unripe tomatoes still on the vine October 23 the day before 33 inches of snow fell in 1997. (I brought them in, put them in brown bags, and we ate them at Thanksgiving. We obviously still haven’t learned our lesson.)
So it’s gather ye rosebuds while ye may (mince and freeze soft herbs, eat all the cherry tomatoes today, etc.) and, just because we can, make one more high summer dessert–maybe an easy Blueberry-Peach Crisp for a Labor Day cookout. At my house there are still Colorado western slope peaches and great blueberries, which go on longer than nearly anything, and are now coming in from Canada. Berries love cool nights, so northern U.S. (particularly northwest) and Canadian varieties are wondrous! If you watch your blueberry packages, you’ll see the place of origin begin way south in the spring and move northward until it can go no further. That would be now. There’s then a break before we begin seeing words like, “Chile,” but smart folks will have squirreled away a bag or two in the freezer already. (If not, the stores sell lovely frozen blueberries and you can bake with them straight out of the freezer.)
Yesterday I baked a trial-run crisp and couldn’t get over how easy and delicious it was, especially topped with vanilla ice cream. I knew some of the fine kid chefs in my life could make this in a New York minute. In a heartbeat. Well, fast at least and maybe with a little help from Dad or Mom with a sharp knife or getting the pan in and out of the oven. There’s no pastry to fuss over, no long baking time, few worries over how much sugar or which spices as a little more or a little less won’t break the bank. Then there’s: who doesn’t like something that tastes like a nutty oatmeal cookie and fresh fruit? No children in the house? Oh well, you can still try this:
- 3 large ripe peaches, pitted and sliced thinly (no need to peel)
- 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup EACH: unbleached all-purpose flour and rolled or old fashioned oats
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces (5 1/3 tablespoons)*
- ½ cup walnut pieces, chop finely with a knife if not using a food processor
- Vanilla ice cream for serving
- Preparation: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place rack at center. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
- Add fruit to pan: Layer the peaches evenly over the bottom of the greased pan and scatter the blueberries on top.
- Make crispy topping: In a food processor or in a large bowl, add the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and kosher salt. Cut in the butter pulsing in the food processor or with a pastry cutter in the bowl until just crumbly.* If using a food processor, pour in the nuts and pulse a few times until finely chopped and well-blended. If using a bowl, add the finely chopped nuts and stir well.
- Add the topping to the fruit and bake: Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over the fruit. Place pan on a rimmed tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until fruit is tender and bubbly and the topping is brown and crispy. May take longer if using frozen blueberries. Set pan on hot pads to cool 15 minutes before serving warm with ice cream if you like. (A glass Pyrex dish can shatter if you place it on the stovetop burners after baking. If you have a metal pan, there’s no problem.)
TIP: The recipe includes cold butter that is cut into the flour, oats, spices, nuts, and brown sugar for the crumbly crisp topping. It’s easiest with a food processor, but works fine with a pastry cutter or two small knives or even your fingers–which is how kids might like to make it. (Let’s get our hands dirty!) Another option is to use softened butter and that’s much easier to stir together or can also be done with the fingers old school style. A crisp is going to bake and work whichever way.
GLUTEN-FREE: Most of the crisp is naturally gluten-free, but you’ll need to replace the wheat flour with almond flour and to make sure your oats are labeled GF.
VEGAN: Replace the butter with vegan margarine and you’re good to go. Use dairy-free ice cream.
NUT ALLERGY: Skip the walnuts and add a couple of extra tablespoons of oats.
LOOKING FOR A KIDS’ COOKBOOK? Here are a few favorites, some older, some newer:
KNEAD IT, PUNCH IT, BAKE IT: The Ultimate Breadmaking Book for Parents and Kids by Judith and Evan Jones. (Look for a used copy online or in used bookstores.)
THE COOKBOOK FOR KIDS from Williams-Sonoma (WS has several kids’ books newer than this. Check them out and see what you think. I like this one.)
Or peruse your local used bookstore or thrift shop; they often have gently used kids’ cookbooks. Your kid will be thrilled to have a cookbook that belongs to them no matter which one it is.
Float on through summer’s end.
BTW: We’ve already had snow on Pike’s Peak: