As a child, I always looked forward to the summer. Although I always had some sort of camp, swimming lessons, or summer school, it also meant long lazy days of swimming in the backyard, reading books while lounging on the sofa, and eating ice cream on days so hot that I made a sticky puddle on the concrete. There were bike rides in the cooler summer evenings and the shouts of joyful children that echoed through the streets, which signaled no homework and carefree summer days.
As a mother, I'm finding summers to be decidedly less wonderful to look forward to. I do enjoy the break from the breakneck morning routines of getting lunches ready, kids ready, and children in various places at the proper time, but there also seems to be an exponential rise in the whining and the noise and the buzzing within my house. The natives, it seems, are restless. And their restlessness are arrows pointed directly at my head and face.
I think when Son and Daughters were younger, summer was just another season of fun, cooing, and cuddling the babies. It meant dressing the kids in cute summer outfits, oooh-ing and aaah-ing over the pretty dresses and the dapper shirts. As they grow older, they voice their demands, their opinions, their thoughts and their desires. Even up to last year, Son's verbal skills were not so advanced so mostly he smiled and giggled and had one or two short sentences and that was it for his communication. I, in turn spent a lot of time shooting words at him, but without really having to pay attention to too much coming back from his direction. Suddenly, a year later, Son talks a mile a minute, has a treatise to share about anything and everything, and voices specific demands about specific things very specifically and very often. There are also two other female voices doing the same, from morning to night, and now - it is just too much noise. Cute younger children who don't talk much during the summer is one thing; active, verbal, spastic children during the summer is entirely another.
I wanted to celebrate summer (even though it was cloudy in the Bay Area) and block out the noise for a bit. Friend SH had suggested that I try doing some cobblers and crisps for the summer and I thought it a great idea. I had in front of me many different stone fruits (plums, pluots, nectarines, peaches) and some delectable berries and sat and tried to figure out how to make a crisp. Even while making the crisp, Son and Daughters made me bonkers as they kept on EATING the fruit I was cutting up for the crisp, and digging into the bowl trying to see what was inside, and mixing things I didn't want mixed. It was to say in the least, an effort to get it out of the kitchen.
But finally it was all assembled (and had there been no children around, it would have been assembled VERY quickly) and I put it in the oven for a nice bake. I invited friend SH to come over and have some with me, and the two of us sat on my sofa, leaned back and basically let our kids run wild in the home. It was actually a welcome respite, to have the kids screaming joyfully at each other instead of screaming at us, and the fruit crisp was just another lovely hit of sugar and deliciousness to make the summer days a bit sweeter. After all, these days are precious and few, even if they are making me a bit crazy.
When does school start again?
If you are tempted to use up mushy fruit by making a crisp, let me stop you right there. DO NOT. It will not have the lovely texture you will enjoy in a crisp. Soggy fruit before the baking will not improve with baking. Choose good fruit that is heavy for its size, firm but with a slight give and not visible bruises.
Double-Crusted Nectarine, Blackberry, Almond Crisp
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
Serves 5 to 6 people
1 ⅓ cups all -purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup sliced almonds
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
5 cups sliced nectarines (between 4 to 5 nectarines total - I used a mix of yellow and white)
1 cup of blackberries, washed and picked over
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F.
To make crisp, mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and mix until combined. Gently add sliced almonds, so as not to break them apart. Press a little more than half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan.
To make fruit filling, mix together granulate sugar, cornstarch together in a large bowl, then add the nectarines, blackberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and vanilla extract. Toss to combine. (There will be some juice which collects; do not worry as this will be thickened into a lovely sauce by the cornstarch.)
Spread fruit evenly over bottom layer of the crisp then sprinkle remaining crisp on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 60 minutes, or until crisp is golden and the fruit bubbles up through the topping. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Storage: Wrapped in plastic, leftovers keep at room temperature for 3 days. Rewarm in 300 F oven until heated through.
For the long summer days