Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

Each kitchen has its own unique aroma. When I was young, my mother's tiny yellow kitchen in the apartment she and my father rented near the harbor was redolent with the spicy scents of ginger and cinnamon.

It was that kitchen that came to my mind as I sampled the first bite of my walnut crisp filled with winter fruit drenched in Calvados.

The taste was rich and sweet and layered, which is what I intended. It reminded me of the inside of my mother's spice drawer, or a photograph in a shelter magazine showing a kitchen filled with pine boughs and pewter.

It is entirely my invention, in that I did not seek inspiration anywhere but my own cupboard, intent on using up what I had on hand. There is nothing extraordinary about it - except the taste!

Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

  • 1/2 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4-5 apples, chopped
  • 1-2 small red pears chopped
  • two tablespoons Calvados
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  • three tablespoons sugar
  • dash or two cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or graham flour
  • 1/2 stick or more cold butter
  • three tablespoons brown sugar

Place chopped fruit in bowl and toss. Drizzle with Calvados. Add vanilla, fructose and cinnamon and toss again. Place in greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

In a second bowl, mix chopped walnuts, flour and brown sugar mix. Cut in butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour topping over fruit.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until topping turns deep golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Even my husband liked it.


dharmagirl said…
Sounds delicious, Mimi! I love those search-the-cupboards-and-refrigerator inventions--they are often the tastiest creations. I made a rustic apple tart today and my apartment now smells like cinnamon and caramelized sugar.

My semester has been an adventure--so very busy and full of adjustments and transitions. I couldn't ask for a more supportive group of colleagues! Thanks for asking:)
Mimi said…
Dharmagirl, the Colleges system is a very nurturing atmosphere. I miss teaching, but I am still working with younger people on another venture.

Since I haven't done much cooking lately, my cupboards are full of things that must be used up.

And I love rustic apple tarts!
Terry B said…
Mimi, this sounds lovely. I also like that it's your own invention--that's a wonderful point to get to in cooking, isn't it? Where you go beyond modifying recipes to relying upon techniques you've developed over the years to just plain invent something.

Regarding kitchen aromas, a friend of one of our daughters, visiting from St. Louis, once proclaimed that the cabinet where we store our spices smelled just like the spice shop in the wonderful Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis.
Lydia said…
This recipe is a wonderful endorsement for a well-stocked pantry! I love mixing fresh and dried fruits in a crisp. And whenever I make a crisp, as opposed to a pie or cake or something that looks more organized, I feel like a more successful baker.
Mimi said…
TerryB, I would love it if my spice cabinet had some sort of aroma. It makes it more - I dunno - mysterious.

Lydia, a part of me believes a successful baker truly bakes from scratch - not necessarily with recipes. I guess it's that cooking from the heart I talked about 10 months ago.
katiez said…
I do so little baking, but I do love a 'crisp'! Usually apple, sometimes pear, always in the late summer. The idea of a winter crisp is lovely...the last of the apples, I have tons of walnuts... yum!
Plus the smell of spices in the kitchen - in our case it's the whole house!
Mimi said…
Katie, I would think a real French kitchen might indeed smell like that this time of year!

In my kitchen, there is always pot pouirri or a candle to make up for it...
Erika W. said…
That crisp looks so comforting and cozy Mimi!

One of my best friends in HS had a kitchen that always smelled of garlic. Strongly of garlic, they must have eaten it everything. To this day when I find myself chopping a lot of garlic I think of that long-lost friend and wonder how she's doing.

My grandmother's kitchen always smelled like beer to me. We frequently were there for summer cookouts with the standard brats boiled in beer. That's the smell I associate most with her house.
Mimi said…
I remember my Grandma Annie's kitchen smelled of almond and vanilla extracts, Erika. Can't smell almond without thinking of her.

We had some neighbors whose kitchen had a sausage-y smell. I liked it.

And my mother and grandmother always said that Swedish kitchens smelled of freshly brewed coffee.
Christine said…
This is a lovely recipe, Mimi. I can smell the spices from here. It's homey, rustic, made with love, made by you. It's got to taste great!
Mimi said…
Thanks, Christine! My kind of food. Really, when I come to think of it, all food is comfort food for me. I contemplating adding ginger, but I thought the cinnamon was enough, paired with the Calvados.
Jann said…
Sometimes when we can throw in some of our own ingredients, it is surprisingly delicious~this is mouth watering! I think many of us have to adjust and modify some when we find ourselves in the mood to cook something and we don't have all the correct ingredients or just want to try something different.
Mimi said…
As you know, Jann, I like that adjusting and modifying. And the eating, too.

I'm still a real novice, compared to the rest of you...

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