We decided to road-trip to Lake Chelan for Labor Day weekend. Ed's parents were visiting and they're not really city people, and Ed and I needed a little vacation too. Plus, I have 20 years worth of swimming, waterskiing, knee-boarding, hand-stand competitions, putt-putt golf, jumping off "the rock", beach volleyball and flirting with the boys memories of Chelan. Needless to say, I was excited to introduce Ed to my family's favorite summer vacation spot.
I was also excited to go to the little farmers market in Manson, a town that used to be all about apples but is now becoming all about wine. So first thing Saturday morning we headed into "town" (it's 2 blocks long, so...) and were greeted by old bearded men with hands still dirty from picking the apples they were selling. This is my kind of place.
We picked up some corn and tomatillos (I made the prawn-corn-tomatillo dish for dinner that night). Then I happened upon an old couple: She was selling vintage linens and napkins with things like "There's nothing a Washington apple a day won't fix" on them. Her husband was selling gorgeous tree-ripened nectarines and some of his old cast iron pans.
So, you know, I had to get a little of both.
The pan is about 3" deep and has that "we've used this to make everything" look about it that I love about old Creuset pans and much-loved cast iron. I took one look, asked what he used it for ("I use that to fry my chicken") and said "how much?" It was mine in less than a minute.
Then I bought a bag of his nectarines for $3. I was already making blueberry-nectarine cobbler in my head.
Cobbler/crisp/pan-dowdy, etc are all pretty close to the same thing, just with different, sometimes regional names. We've always called it cobbler in my family, whether my mom used bisquick for her topping or whether she did the oatmeal-flour-butter-sugar crust. I prefer the latter, so that's what this had. The recipe below is approximate since I didn't actually use a recipe. The amount of sugar and flour that goes into the fruit mixture really varies widely depending on the type of fruit (juicy fruit requires more flour than, say, apples) and the ripeness (ie, if you've got tart apples you'll be using double than you might for super-ripe nectarines). As always, tasting is a good way to get an idea of how much you need.
for fruit mixture:
3 c blueberries
5-6 large ripe nectarines
1/3 c sugar (more or less depending on ripeness)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c flour (less if your fruit is less juicy)
1 c flour
3/4 c quick oats
3/4 lb (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cubed and kept cold
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix all ingredients for fruit mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
Mix flour, oats, salt, and sugars. Add cubed butter, and working quickly, use fingers to rub butter into the flour mixture. You don't want the butter to melt, so try not to let your palms get into the action--keep it just on your fingertips. This doesn't need to be uniform; in fact, it's better if there are some larger chunks. The topping will be like a coarse meal with chunks when it's ready.
Look at the fruit mixture. If there seems to be a lot of liquid in the bowl, pour some of the liquid out and add a touch of flour. Then place fruit in a 9" x 13" glass baking dish. Use your hands to evenly sprinkle the topping onto the fruit.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour (we had the world's oldest, crappiest oven over there, so I ended up baking for 45 minutes and then broiling the top for a few minutes to get it all nice and crunchy-brown). Let cool for at least a half-hour before serving with vanilla ice cream.