There’s something so wonderful about cooking from a recipe. By following the directions, ingredient for ingredient, you are, in a sense, channeling the culinary spirit of the chef that created the dish. When the dish is complete and you sample the flavors, you are able to take an objective view of the dish. You can marvel at the ideas that brought those singular flavors together. You may note the subtlety of flavor or the unexpected abundance of it. By cooking dishes created by the masters, you begin to understand the inspirations of a Chef from the inside out.
Last night, in preparation of returning my many Alice Water’s cookbooks to the library, I made simple dessert—based on an amalgam of two recipes and what ingredients I had on hand. Some of the adjustments were mine, but the style of the dish is all Alice.
My first bite of this semi-sweet, rustic crisp made me feel like I was enjoying a dessert that Alice Waters and Lindsay Shere had made especially for me.
½ cup almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 ripe nectarines, pitted and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup blueberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
zest of one lemon, chopped fine
1 tablespoon aged rum
For the Topping
Preheat oven to 375 F. Toast the almonds until they smell nutty and are slightly more brown, about 7 or 8 minutes. Chop the almonds to a medium to fine consistency. Combine the flour, the sugars, the salt and spice in a mixing bowl. Add the chilled butter in pieces and mix with your fingers until it becomes mealy. Add the nuts and mix until the flour mixture holds together when squeezed. Put aside. (The topping can be prepared up to a week in advance and refrigerated).
For the Crisp
Mix the fruit in a medium-sized bowl and then add the sugar. Taste and adjust for sweetness. (*Note, don’t over sugar the fruit—there’s something quite beautiful about a semi-sweet crisp. Don’t be afraid to let the fruit express itself in its truest form.) Dust the flour over the mixture and stir gently. Spoon the topping into a small cooking dish is just big enough to hold the fruit. Mound a small amount in the center of the dish. Then, gently add the crisp mixture on top. Lightly push the crumble on top of the fruit mixture.
Place a cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven (to catch any overflow juices) and put the crisp dish on top. Bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the fruit juices are thickened and bubbling. The delicious smell of baked fruit will help you know when it’s close to being ready.
Serve with rum flavored whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Finish the ice cream with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.