Summer Staple (+ Gluten-Free Double Crisp Apple Crisp)

I’ve decided that each summer going forward should be marked by a particular staple, be it swimming early in the day, twice-weekly hikes, a certain blend of tea, or a new favorite stone fruit. Summer 2015 has had a few ‘things’ that distinguishes it from summers past: daily visits to the chickens up the street; large iced coffees with coffee ice cubes; Clover’s peanut butter-dark chocolate ice cream; decadently thick and tart Greek yogurt with homemade granola for breakfast; and a spate of baking fruit-laden goodies — scones, pie, galette, and now a double crisp apple crisp.

We drove north up the coast last week for a few days and ensconced ourselves at the edge of a redwood forest overlooking a valley. Mountains loomed in the distance and the sunsets were soft and lovely. The Pacific Ocean was just 10 miles away so on a few mornings the fog stole through the trees while at night the breeze turned the air cool and crisp. It felt like a fairy land, like a dream, like a painting that seems too perfect to be reality. We saw the stars at night and went to bed early and drank lots of delicious coffee while wearing wool socks.

I cooked most of our meals, simple things like baked pasta and red lentils and brown rice and quinoa with spinach and tofu. Oatmeal in the mornings, sandwiches for lunch, eaten at the beach. One afternoon I baked a sort of double crisp apple crisp with Gravenstein apples for our afternoon tea, smashing together two recipes from the copy of the Joy of Cooking I found on the bookshelf of the house where we stayed. I lightened up on the sugar, used almond flour in place of the all-purpose, and we had a hearty, not-too-sweet, gluten-free crispy apple delight to nibble on for breakfast, too. It’s not a fancy recipe and it’s not complicated but it’s a refreshing take on the more traditional crisp that has a buttery topping floating above a sea of fruit. In this version the crisp is mostly oats and those oats sandwich apples baked on higher heat to become almost pudding-like. There’s just a touch of vanilla and ground cinnamon and ginger to lend warming notes to the topping.

This summer truly has been the summer for fruit bakes: crisps, crumbles, crumble pies … I’ve foraged in the neighborhood and backyard, picked huckleberries below the Inverness ridge, plucked blackberries from bushes growing wild along the back roads of Sebastopol. It has been a slow, dreamy, fruit-soaked handful of months that I am loathe to see end even as they have been all that I could have wished for. What will fall, my favorite season, be like in the desert? At this point we are merely hoping for daily temperatures that dip below 100 degrees. This luscious California summer with its foggy mornings and pine scented evenings will feel surreal when we’re back in the Middle East. I’m looking forward already to next year.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023