|There are so many variations of this standard fruit crisp.|
Seven years ago I left a newspaper writing job to try my hand at running a non-profit organization. Although I relished the opportunity at first, I could see immediately that the challenge was greater than anyone knew. Obtaining additional training gave credence to my concerns; the challenges I encountered at work made for long work days and great frustration.
I'm naturally optimistic, and I really do try to find the good in people and situations. But some days, that was a challenge in itself.
Adding to my frustration was the near-impossible task of working with a large board of directors, many of whom had personal agendas or did not understand their governance roles. Frankly, some were Good Ole Boys (and Girls). Thanks to support from the forward-thinking dean of our local technical college and a few others, I was able to bring fresh perspectives to the board in the form of CEOs and plant managers from larger, more professional companies. But some of the private agendas remained, much to my frustration.
About three years ago, I came to the conclusion that a planned exit was my best option. But even with an end in sight, some days were rough.
Two years ago I came home after a rather exasperating day at work to find a basket of apples on the bench outside my back door, a gift from a friend. They were Red Delicious, not my favorites, but the gift of apples charmed me nonetheless.
My friend has great verve and a penchant for lovely presentation. But more than that, after a day of dealing with super-sized egos and and equally mammoth dramatics, the simple, wholesome gift of apples in a basket enchanted me and brought me great comfort.
I used the apples in a tossed salad, an apple slaw and found an especially-sharp cheddar to serve as a foil for their bland, sweet flavor.
When it comes to apples, I can eat them any way, any place, any time. I think perhaps the apple is nature's most perfect food, and maybe that's why it played a pivotal role in the Garden of Eden.
There is something both wholesome and mysterious about the apple. Apples conjure up images of fresh-scrubbed faces and the outdoors, but they can also bring to mind ancient, gnarled trees and windfall bounty, and - when their tartness is tempered by brown sugar and cinnamon - old homestead kitchens of years past. Old houses - really old houses, like those found at historic sites - often smell of apples to me. Apples and old wood and must. Not an unpleasant fragrance.
The other night I made Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp. I've made so many fruit crisps in my life that I now just make it up as I go along. This recipe yielded 4-6 servings.
For the fruit filling:
- 3 small baking apples, any variety
- 3 small baking pears (Bosc is a good choice)
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the topping:
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 6 Tablespoons cold butter
- Pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely chop apples and pears; do not peel. Place in a bowl, adding cranberries, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon. Set aside so that flavors can marry.
Toss oatmeal, walnuts and sugar in smaller bowl. Cut in cold butter to create a streusel-like topping.
Grease 4x4 baking dish. Place fruit mixture in the dish, add topping. Press down with spatula. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, removing when topping turns golden brown.
Serve warm or chilled. Ice cream, vanilla yogurt or whipped cream are great toppings, but I prefer a small wedge of cheese.