There is nothing like a juicy fruit crisp after a summer barbecue. The problem in August is that nobody wants to heat up the kitchen to bake one. The solution? Use the heat from your grill to bake your crisp outdoors. If you're making chicken and ribs, bake your crisp after you take your dinner off the grill and while you eat. If you are grilling something that takes just a few minutes, such as skirt steak or salmon filets, bake your crisp first and let it cool while you grill the main course.
I make my grilled fruit crisp exactly the way I make it in the oven, combining fruit, sugar and a little bit of cornstarch in a baking pan, topping it with a mixture of sugar, flour, nuts and butter, and then baking until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is crisp. The major difference is in the baking time. In the oven, the crisp will take 30 minutes. On the grill, it can be done in as little as 15. In such close contact with open flames, the fruit on the bottom of the pan becomes deliciously caramelized.
The recipe below is infinitely variable, depending on your taste and what's available at the market:
* Instead of almonds, use walnuts, pecans or pine nuts in the topping.
* For a gluten-free crisp, replace all-purpose flour with almond flour or cornmeal.
* For a nut-free crisp, substitute rolled oats for the nuts.
* Swap vanilla for the almond extract; replace the cinnamon with a pinch of nutmeg or ½ teaspoon ground ginger.
* Experiment with different fruit combinations: Blackberry and nectarine, blueberry or cherries and plums, figs and raspberries. Or try using a tropical fruit such as mango or pineapple with coconut in the topping. As we head into autumn, mix end-of-summer fruits such as raspberries with early fall apples.
You can make your crisp in a cast-iron pan, which is tough enough to withstand flames. Don't use thin metal baking pans that you use in the oven. The pans will scorch and burn. My preference is to use a disposable foil pan. This way I just toss it after dinner. A disposable pan also comes in handy for traveling. Sometimes, I'll bring this crisp, assembled but not baked, to someone else's house and keep it in the refrigerator until there's room on the grill. The recipe can easily be doubled and grilled in a 9-by-13-inch foil pan to feed a larger crowd.
Let your crisp stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving. It is good on its own, but even better when garnished with something cold and creamy -- whipped cream, ice cream or frozen yogurt would all be good. Dollops of sweetened crème fraîche, mascarpone or sour cream also serve the purpose.
GRILLED PEACH-RASPBERRY CRISP
1 1/2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
1 cup raspberries
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1. Preheat a gas grill to medium. Combine peaches, berries, 1/3 cup brown sugar, almond extract and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
2. Combine almonds, flour, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add butter and mix on low speed with an electric mixer until clumps begin to form, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Spread fruit mixture across the bottom of an 8-inch-square foil pan. Scatter topping over fruit. Grill, covered, until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes and serve warm.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.