Last week I picked up four beautifully made ceramic casserole dishes with matching lids. I had requested them to be made as gifts for some of my 20- to 30-year-old nieces and nephews that are buying houses, having babies and getting engaged and married. They are the perfect gift. Beautifully made, each set is unique, durable and a great size for two to four servings.

I got my own casserole dish decades ago when Sam, the potter, and Carol came for dinner and brought dessert. It was wonderful, an apple crisp, full of flavor with a satisfying crust. We practically swooned but the Lollis/Taylors claimed it was easy. I knew better. That’s what all good cooks say when you compliment their creations. One of them rattled off the steps that one goes through to create such a dish and we listened and tried to follow what they were describing. When Sam and Carol left, the casserole dish stayed behind.

I washed it, dried it and reverently placed it into the cabinet where it gathered dust.

Months later there was an article in our paper about making crisps. I tore it out. This is something I do regularly; read about a recipe, tear it out of the publication and pin it onto the refrigerator where it becomes faded, then yellow and then a brittle fire hazard before I eventually throw it out.

This time I gave it more attention. After all I had the special dish. More to the point the author described making the topping in terms of a formula. The inside of the crisp was pretty general: coat the bottom and sides of the baking dish with a bit of butter and add fruit, peeled and cut up into uniform pieces, tossed with a couple of tablespoons of flour, a tablespoon of sugar, and spice if you like it. The topping was formulaic: two parts flour (or oatmeal) to one part sugar and one part butter.

I decided to try it. We have an old apple tree in the yard and that year it was producing fruit like there was no tomorrow.


I picked up some apples, cored, peeled and cut them up, making about five cups of fruit. Greased the casserole. Tossed the fruit with flour, sugar and some cinnamon. Placed it in the dish, put a few bits of butter in with the fruit and preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Made the topping in a saucepan, melting the butter, adding brown sugar and flour according to the formula, which I had memorized. Carefully put the topping over the fruit and slid the whole thing into the oven on top of a cookie sheet. Watched it until the fruit mixture began to bubble up around the topping. It smelled wonderful.

Success! It tasted even better than it smelled. Since then, I have made variations on the basic recipe. I’ve added craisins to the apple recipe, used pears from our tree in the yard and combined peaches and some blueberries. I’ve substituted oatmeal for flour and gradually cut down on the amount of crust to allow the fruit to shine and still end up with a satisfying crunch.

Here is the basic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4-5 cups of fruit, the ripest you can find
Cut into similar sized pieces
Toss with 2 tbsp. of organic flour,
2 tbsp. of brown sugar and spices to taste

Grease the bottom and sides of the casserole dish
Put the fruit mix and a few little bits of butter in the dish
Mix together ½ cup melted butter,
½ cup brown sugar and 1 cup of rolled oats
Pat the crisp mixture onto the top of the fruit mix

Place on a cookie sheet
and transfer to the middle rack in the oven
Bake about 45 minutes or until the fruit mixture is hot and bubbly
Remove from oven and cool
Serve warm with ice cream or vanilla yogurt

I am reminded of the proverbial saying about giving a man a fish. “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

“Always cook with love. Always bake with your heart. Always enjoy yourself.”

Bon appetit!