Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strawberry and Almond Crumble

I hope your spring break was lovely. Mine was. SXSW, a huge interactive/film/music festival took over the city. I had such a wonderful time-- I saw friends and lots of live music. It was the best week I've had all year. Seeing so many passionate musicians- who were all working so hard, and seeing how grateful they were, just for the opportunity to perform was so inspiring. There was so much joy for living and performing and music, it touched me deeply.

Acts that I saw that made me grateful to be alive:

Mother Falcon
Los Lonely Boys
Alejandro Escovedo
Pearl and the Beard
Alex Winston
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

Go look them up and buy their albums and croon their tunes and see them when they tour.

I also baked a crisp. There are two things that I really loathe: woody strawberries and self-conciously ironic mustaches--COME ON PEOPLE IT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE.

That said, if I could grow an ironic mustache I probably would.

Never mind.

But those strawberries! The flavorless kind that taste like cardboard-- There is a cure! They can be saved! They no longer have to moulder in your refrigerator! There is a God!
Oh my this is so amazing, I just can't believe it: baked strawberries are not only palatable, they are awesome. Especially when topped with a "rubble*" of ground almonds, butter and sugar.

This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, the busty and beautiful British goddess of home cooking. She suggests serving this crumble with "lashings of heavy cream,**" which strikes me as distinctly sweet and British. I didn't, because I was out with the hoards of skinny-jean clad wannabe hipsters sporting exciting mustaches.
But there you go.


*Nigella's words
** Nigella again.

Strawberry and Almond Crumble
from Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson

Notes: I used a food processor to grind my almonds. If you don't have one I suggest you go out immediately and buy one, just to make this recipe. Or try and grind some almonds in your blender. (?) In case you didn't already know, turbinado sugar is a kind of very coarse sugar, it is really delicious and most grocery stores now carry it, it gives the crumble a crunchier texture which is really lovely.


  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal/flour
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • Heaping 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, diced
  • 1 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Scant 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • Heavy cream, to serve
  • 1 ovenproof pie dish approximately 8-inches diameter by 2-inches deep (approximately 1 1/4 quarts capacity)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the hulled strawberries into your pie dish (I use a round one) and sprinkle over them the sugar, almond meal, and vanilla extract. Give the dish a good shake or two to mix the ingredients.

Now for the crumble topping: put the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and rub in the cold, diced butter between thumb and fingers (or in a free standing mixer).When you've finished with it, it should resemble rough, pale oatmeal. Stir in the sliced almonds and turbinado sugar with a fork.

Tip this over the strawberry mixture, covering the strawberries in an even layer and giving a bit of a press in at the edges of the dish. Set the dish on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, by which time the crumble topping will have darkened to a pale gold and some pink-red juices will be seeping and bubbling out at the edges.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving, and be sure to put a pitcher of chilled heavy cream on the table alongside.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

I read somewhere once, that people only use a tiny fraction of their brains, and that there’s an incredible amount of mental energy that is rarely used, if ever. I found this incredibly depressing. Those strange frontal lobes and upper cortexes of my brain: Unused! Unloved!

I frequently worry that I spend all my time thinking about relatively trivial things: laundry that I never actually do, driving, my obsession with John Aielli who is the DJ for Eklectikos my favorite radio show EVER, clothes, thrifting, college, doughnuts, clothes, stupid things people post on facebook, clothes, liquid eyeliner which I'm afraid to apply because I know I'll make a mess and I hate taking makeup off, clothes and a plethora of of other embarrassingly small thoughts.

But what I am about to tell you is not trivial. In fact, you can think about this all day, every day and even those neglected lower cortexes and upper lobes of your mind will feel loved. Ready for it?

This is a powerful thought:

Blueberry Crisp & Vanilla Ice Cream.

Need I say more?

Despite my love of cake and pie and doughnuts and cookies, there is something completely different about crisps. They are rustic, unpretentious and elegant. Strunk and White would approve.

Crisps fall within the style rules those two grammar fiends set forth: Crisps are not "overstatements" (rule #7.) And they do not "affect a breezy manner" (rule #9), "explain too much" (rule #11) or require "fancy words " (rule #14.)

It's time to stop thinking about trivial things. Feed your mind.


Blueberry Crisp
adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

For Crisp Topping:

6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats or chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

6 cups blueberries, tossed with an optional 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and maybe some lemon zest if you're feeling fancy

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Using your fingers or the paddle attachment of a mizer, work the butter with the rest of the ingredients (except blueberries) so that each piece is coated and you have a coarse crumbly mixture. Butter a 2-2 1/2-quart baking dish. Pour in blueberries. Gently cover with the topping. Bake for about 45 minutes. Or until topping is lightly browned and blueberries are luscious and bubbly looking.