“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.
Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.
It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.
Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.
This is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.”
– selections from A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
This crisp is tart and sweet, warm, toasty, and wonderful. It is just what’s required for these late winter days–comforting, but bright. It uses up the remainder of the fruit I froze last summer, in preparation (desperate hope?) for the one to come. It is also largely a pantry dish–recipe testing required no last minute trips to the grocery store.
Serve your crisp warm, over yogurt as a sweet breakfast or brunch, or with vanilla ice cream, coconut or passionfruit sorbet, crème fraîche, or chilled cream as an unabashed dessert. It is lovely on its own, too, especially with a cup of milky tea or coffee. I enjoyed it the next morning, cold, for breakfast, and I could make a habit of that, too.
I chose the combination of raspberries + Italian plums because that is what I had in the freezer. Feel free to switch in the fruit of your choice: blackberries, currents, peaches, nectarines, or figs would be equally tasty. Cornstarch can be added to absorb some of the berry juices, however, it is not necessary–I happen to like my crisp really juicy and runny, so I skip it. (After a night in the refrigerator, the juices become absorbed anyway.) You can also reduce the sugar, or cut the crisp topping in half, if you want more breakfast than dessert.
The walnuts can be exchanged for hazelnuts, or even pecans. If you do not have vanilla powder, use 1 scraped vanilla bean. (You can skip the vanilla, although I think it earns its place in this recipe.) You can make the crisp, cover it well with plastic wrap, and store it in the freezer for up to 1 month–it goes directly from the freezer into the oven, making it the perfect, simple solution for house or dinner guests. Serves 6-8.
- 1 heaping cup (120 grams) walnuts
- 3/4 cup (105 grams) flour
- 1/2 packed cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp (90 grams) cold unsalted butter
- the zest of 1/2 a medium lemon
- 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 gram) kosher salt
- 2 cups (225 grams) frozen raspberries
- 1.5 cups (255 grams) frozen, pitted and halved, Italian plums
- the juice of 1/2 a medium lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) vanilla powder
- 1/4 packed cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) cornstarch (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter
- Turn the oven to 350F (176C). While the oven is heating up, spread the walnuts across a baking sheet. Bake the walnuts for 5 minutes and then remove the baking sheet from the oven; allow the walnuts to cool.
- Move the cooled walnuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse them, about 50 times, until you have a dusty walnut crumble. Then add the: flour, light brown sugar, butter (cut into pieces), lemon zest, and pinch of salt to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together for about 45 seconds, until it is just shy of doughy. Break up the crisp topping across a baking sheet. Move it to the freezer while you wash the dishes and prepare the other ingredients.
- Heat the oven to 375F (190C). In a large bowl, stir together the: frozen raspberries, frozen Italian plums, lemon juice, vanilla powder, light brown sugar, and (if you are using it) the cornstarch. Butter the inside of a 10-inch pan. (You can also use a casserole dish, but I like more surface area, for the extra caramelization.)
- Pour the fruit into the buttered pan, and then scatter the chilled crisp topping all over the fruit. Move the pan to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes (if the crisp is coming from the freezer, add an extra 5-10 minutes to the cooking time), or until the crisp topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Allow the crisp to cool for 20 minutes before enjoying.