End of Summer and into Fall with a Fresh Fruit Crumble

crumbleinbowl2When I was a child, as far as dessert was concerned, I was “all in” for chocolate. Fruit desserts were okay, but somehow a little disappointing. Even with an added bonus of vanilla ice cream piled on top of a slice of apple pie or a warm peach crisp, a fruit dessert still didn’t hold a candle to anything chocolate. And yes, chocolate ice cream on top of a peach crisp or apple pie is just plain wrong.

Fast forward to many years later and I am now “all in” for fruit-based desserts. It’s not that I have given up chocolate, but these days whether it’s spring berries, summer peaches or fall apples, there’s a whole lot of fruit dessert making going on at my house. And my most favorite thing to make is something quick and easy with ingredients I usually have on hand. Enter the fruit crumble.

What’s the difference between a crumble, a crisp and a cobbler, you may ask?

Well, not a whole lot, really. In my opinion, the difference is mostly in the topping, although some cobblers do have a thickening agent added to the filling. For instance, the biscuit, dumpling or crust-like topping of a cobbler is flour-based, whereas a crumble topping is much more streusel-like in nature, has far less flour and often includes spices, oats and nuts. That would place a crisp—which has a higher butter and sugar to flour ratio in its topping than a cobbler, but typically does not include oats or nuts—somewhere in between a cobbler and a crumble.

Of the three, a crumble has become my favorite. The appeal is not only in the combination of flavors that a crumble provides, but in the textural contrast between the juicy, soft and sweet fruit and the toothsome, crispy, crunchy topping. It’s a perfectly balanced dessert. With a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream melting over a warm serving of crumble, you’re in for a heavenly experience!

Another thing to love about a crumble is how versatile it is. You can make it with berries or stone fruit, or a mix of the two. And when the spring/summer fruits are gone, you can make it with seasonal apples or pears instead…heck, throw in a few fresh cranberries with those apples, if you like. If your citrus du jour is orange instead of lemon, that will work just as well. So really, this is a year-round dish.

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Generally I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts, so my version of fruit crumble relies on less sugar than many recipes, which allows the natural sweetness of the ripe fruit to shine through. The addition of vanilla ice cream becomes an enhancement to the flavor and texture of the dessert, rather than making it overbearingly sweet.

Make this crumble with your favorite fresh fruit, add some vanilla ice cream, raise up your spoon and let’s toast the end of summer and the beginning of the fall season. Bon appétit!

Peach or Fresh Fruit Crumble
Serves 6

For the filling:
7-8 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced to yield about 7 1/2 cups total of fruit
(or you can mix peaches or nectarines, blackberries or blueberries and fresh cherries, or substitute an equal amount of *peeled or skin-on cored and sliced apples or ripe pears instead of stone fruit or berries)
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
zest of one lemon (or an orange will do nicely, too)

For the topping:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Extra butter to grease your baking dish
Vanilla bean ice cream to serve (don’t skip, life is too short!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter either a 3-inch deep 7 x 11 or similarly sized glass or oval baking dish, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches (or whatever fruits you are using), sugar, cinnamon and zest and stir to combine well. Set the fruit mixture aside while you make the crumble topping. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, oats, pecans, flour, salt and cinnamon. Add in the cut butter and mix with your hands until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is in pea-sized pieces.

Evenly spread the fruit into the bottom of your prepared dish. Cover the fruit evenly with the crumble mixture. Place the dish on a foil lined baking sheet before baking to catch any spills, and place into the oven. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow the crumble to cool about 15 minutes or to room temperature. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Leftovers, if any, can be covered with plastic, refrigerated and gently warmed to room temperature before serving.

*Note: If making this crisp with apples or pears, add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the fruit mixture and then proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

Fresh out of the oven, a sea of crispy crumble over juicy fruit is just waiting for someone to dive in!

Fresh out of the oven, a sea of crispy crumble over juicy fruit is just waiting for someone to dive in!

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An Anniversary and an Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu

PeachMelba7BHi Everyone! I hope that your last couple of months (yes, two months almost!) have been lovely. All is well here. My time has been spent helping family get through some surgery and recovery, traveling, work, hiking, birthdays…you know, life in general. But all is good, I’m back online and ready to share more trails leading to good food.

I’ll start off by mentioning that not only is this my 200th post, but today is the 4 year anniversary of this blog! That first post, Ode to Red Speckled Grits, was all about testing the waters of websites and blogging…and once I started, I was hooked. Thanks to all of you who found me, encouraged me and joined me in this adventure. And thanks for sharing your own blogs while giving me informative and fun dialog along the way. Please join me for the beginning of the next 4 years!

Celebrations require some dessert, and with all of the lovely fruits available in this almost summer season, I want to share a quick and easy celebratory recipe where fresh fruit is the star. I’ve always loved tiramisu…the little “pick me up” from Italy. The traditional recipe involves a rich and delicious combo of ladyfingers, cream, mascarpone, coffee, marsala wine, chocolate and sometimes egg yolks. Nothing wrong with that.

This version, however, is a little lighter take on the original and can be quite versatile in terms of changing out seasonal fruits and whatever booze strikes your fancy. Filled with juicy berries and peaches, creamy mascarpone cheese lightened with yogurt and a bit of fresh citrus zest for some zing—along with the traditional ladyfingers and liquor—this satisfying dessert keeps much of the texture and feel of the original tiramisu with about half the calories. It’s a “pick me up” that comes together quickly, resulting in a cool, light and elegant dessert, just perfect for the hot weather season or whenever you need a delicious finish to a meal. Try my two variations below and then have some fun experimenting on your own.

BlueberryPeach1

Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu for 2
(can be doubled or quadrupled as needed)

For Blueberry-Peach-Almond Tiramisu:
3/4 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and sliced, with their juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
3 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 generous tablespoon plain greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
3 teaspoons of amaretto, divided
4 hard italian ladyfingers (can use the soft kind if you prefer, but hard holds up better)
1 generous tablespoon of toasted, slivered almonds

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, mascarpone, yogurt, powdered sugar and one teaspoon of Amaretto, until smooth. Break two ladyfingers into four pieces each and place four pieces (one ladyfinger for each glass) into the bottom of two pretty glasses…low ball, brandy snifter or wine glasses work perfectly. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of Amaretto per glass over the ladyfingers. Spoon 1/4 of the peaches and some juice over the ladyfingers in each glass, then top with 1/4 of the blueberries per glass. Layer 1 generous Tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture on top of the fruit in each glass. Sprinkle 1/4 of the toasted almonds into each glass. Repeat the layers with the remaining ladyfingers broken into 4 pieces each, the Amaretto, peaches, blueberries and mascarpone mixture evenly divided, and finish with the remaining toasted almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Serve and enjoy.

Peachmelba1For Peach “Melba” Tiramisu:
Substitute 3/4 cup fresh raspberries for the blueberries, orange zest for the lemon and Grand Marnier for the Amaretto. Omit almonds and proceed the same as for Blueberry-Peach-Almond, garnishing the top with a raspberry and some fresh mint, if desired.

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A few scenes from our latest adventures in North Carolina.

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Peach and Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Ready to cut

Allow the cake to cool completely before you cut it…if you can wait that long!

Coffeecake. It’s not just for breakfast.

Sure, it’s a tasty way to start your work or school day, but this Peach and Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake is so much more a than breakfast food alone.

Peaches and blueberries were made for each other in my opinion, and this cake is chock-full of summer fruity goodness, without incurring too much damage to your waistline. The layered fruit within the cake and the oat, brown sugar and almond streusel topping combine to make this just sweet enough, with a crunchy and satisfying texture on top. It’s a perfect combo. Continue reading

A Star Spangled Cherry Berry Peach Crumble

The 4th of July all wrapped up in a dessert. Happy Independence Day!

As Independence Day in the U.S. rolls rapidly towards us in the form of our annual July 4th celebration, it only seems appropriate to share a festive recipe to go along with all the fireworks! This traditional and delightful dessert is a rift on one that I make all the time and in many forms, because it’s a favorite of mine and it has universal adult and kid appeal.

I am, of course, speaking of the fruit concoction known by many names…cobbler, crisp or crumble. By definition, this version can be called either a crisp or a crumble, and it’s quite versatile in terms of the fruits you can use. For the patriotic colors and for the mix of sweet-tart flavors, I chose a combination of peaches, cherries and blueberries, but any mixture of fruits you enjoy together will work. You can feel free to substitute blackberries or raspberries for cherries (as you’ll see in my baking dish version), omit blueberries or use all of one fruit. In the winter months, for those of you in winter right now, I make a variation of this with apples using orange zest and adding a bit of lemon juice, and sometimes I throw in some walnuts or pecans into the crumbled topping. Continue reading

Into each life, some rain must fall…hopefully!

We’ve waited and waited. Weeks on end without rain and with record high temperatures, close to or in the 90’s, and dry as a bone. Then finally this weekend, some rain!

Our house in the forest, by artist Jeanie Holland.

A time or two now, I believe I’ve mentioned that our property is mostly shaded. And by this I mean we practically live in a forest of 80-year-old and 100-foot-tall pine trees, with an understory of dogwood trees, Japanese maples, shade-hearty shrubs, and various perennial plants and ferns.

From the get-go, I knew my desire to have a vegetable garden of any type was an exercise in futility, but I pursued it anyway. And this spring, on top of having no sun in my yard, we’ve struggled with having very little rain at a time when we usually get the bulk of rainfall we’re going to for the next few months. The clouds tease, the forecasters make promises and all the moisture goes right around us. I’ve watered, only just enough to keep everything going and within our watering restrictions, but city water with all that chlorine just isn’t what the plants want. Then Friday rolls around, and what’s this? We have moisture coming from the sky…ta da! Suddenly everything is growing again. Continue reading

We’re Jammin’

Each year I see all these wonderful recipes for canned goodies—homemade pickles, relishes, chutney, jams, marmalades, conserves, preserves, jellies, sun-dried tomatoes—and I SO long to make my own and try them out, give them as gifts to friends, and have a bit of summer sunshine stored for my own winter pantry.

But there’s been a problem: contemplating the process has caused great fear and trepidation in my soul. Even though it’s one of the most common ways to preserve homegrown foods, and is quite a simple process handed down through generations of folks, I just have not been able to bring myself to attempt it. So why all the angst? In three words: sterilization, pasteurization and the worst thought of all, botulism. Doing anything connected with those words made me want to run in the opposite direction. Continue reading

Chill Out

A big story here in the South this week is the record high summer temperatures—as is the case with many parts of the country—and finding some way, any way, to beat the heat is a high priority.

Last night, all I wanted for dinner was something cool and salad-ish, and I already had some fresh butterbeans that I’d picked up at the market. My good friend Diane is a great cook, and one fine summer day she served me a brilliant and inspired dish called Butterbean Salad at her house, which has been my favorite way to eat butterbeans ever since. This salad made from cooked fresh butterbeans, sweet jarred roasted red peppers, red onion, fresh basil leaves and feta cheese—all tossed with a simple vinaigrette—is just plain wonderful. Cool and summery, it goes with just about anything from burgers to veggies, or even an all-salad meal. Continue reading