It was easy to like Ina Garten. She is sophisticated and smart, and unlike many wannabe food stars, she has years in her stride, and a good deal of experience to boot. And when she talks, she sounds very convincing.
There are lots of things I like about her show. She cooks in her own kitchen, uses her own cookware, and serves the food in her own dishes, to her real friends. Sometimes her husband Jeffrey, who is quite charming and funny, appears on the show too. Wiki him to find out more, you might be surprised. She often has a few minutes dedicated to 'setting' the table and 'doing' the flowers, which is so not my thing, but I find it enjoyable anyway. She clearly also has a good team of photographers on her side, who make everything on her show look fabulous.
Sometimes I find it amusing that she thinks nothing of rolling out pastry crusts and piping meringues but uses canned tomatoes because life is too short to peel tomatoes. And if I ever met her, we could argue endlessly, amicably, over cilantro and parsley. But ultimately, even with her hoity toity Hampton ways, Ina seems accessible, and very American, including in her admiration of all things French.
Now on to her recipes. It is probably because of her background in the food business and catering that she always seems to make huge quantities of food, and one reason that held me back from trying anything was the serious scaling down of quantities that I would need to do. So even though I took ideas and inspirations from her shows, I had not followed any particular recipe of hers. That changed after I made the Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp that I had been eyeing this apple season. It has a long ingredient list, but when I recently happened to have each and every of the things on hand, I had to make these. On the show, she made individual ones in ramekins, so I did that too. The crisps were deliciously blog-worthy - with a crisp caramelly top giving way to the filling that was bursting with the sweetness of apples and pears and the heady scent of orange zest. Such a lovely, wintry (or fall-y) dessert to savor slowly after dinner.
Even the hint of cinnamon was wonderful. This comes from someone who is not overly fond of cinnamon in desserts. In fact I was highly tempted to use cardamom or vanilla, but I thought I'll stick to the original this time, and was amply rewarded. I was also tempted to reduce the amount of butter, and so I started with only two tablespoons, but the mixture finally came together only when the entire quantity was added. The recipe takes a bit of work, but not skill, and to borrow from Ina, the good news is, that it can be done in advance.
This could be eaten with ice-cream or whipped cream, but it was glorious on its own too. Here is the scaled down and adapted recipe.
Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp
1-1/2 apples (or 2 small apples)
3 Tablespoons dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the topping:
3/8 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or regular salt)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel and core the pears and apples and cut them into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and toss with the cranberries, zests, juices, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the mixture into a 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish, or distribute it in 4 ramekins of 3/4 cup capacity.
For the topping:
Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Or use a fork to mix everything, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.
Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes (or longer), until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Let it sit for a few minutes. Serve warm.
A few notes
- Either the number of servings were out of whack or their serving sizes are humongous. The original recipe was meant for 8 servings, but a fourth of it serves 4 generously. So what the original says would serve 8, could actually serve 16.
- Since the number of servings were twice of what I expected, I found that the crumble can be frozen by covering tightly with plastic wrap, and then baked straight from the freezer. It will thaw in the oven as it heats up to 350 degrees.
- As is true of produce in general, good fruits will help to make the final result better, so remember to taste a little of the fruits before using.
- If making a larger quantity, increase baking time.
Sending this to Raaga for AFAM: Pears.