A few weeks ago farm member Sarah Hamstra asked me if I’d ever tried beets in an apple crisp. I had not, but since I’m a big fan of almost anything that gets topped with vanilla ice cream, I decided to give it a try. As a base recipe, I used America’s Test Kitchen’s apple crisp recipe from their fabulous The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.
The night I served this to my family, I told them it contained a special ingredient and they had to figure out what it was. Since my kids like beets and are used to eating my food experiments, no one seemed that surprised by the veggie addition, and everyone agreed that the new version was just as delicious as the original–yay!
I find this recipe is best made on a day when you have some time, maybe a Saturday morning (crisp works perfectly well for brunch!) or a relaxed Sunday afternoon. Make yourself a cup of coffee or grab a glass of wine. If you want to make it a family affair and you have children, enlist their help. If you need some time alone, shoo those kiddos outside, put on some music, and simply enjoy yourself.
Start by prepping the topping. First, cut 6 tablespoons of butter into 6 pieces and let soften. Set aside. Then preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking with parchment paper. Place 1 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats on one side of the baking sheet and 1 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans on the other side. (ATC calls for almonds, but since I never know which nut I’m going to find in the cupboard, I’ve tried all these–any of them works here.) Bake for 3-5 minutes, until the oats and nuts are lightly toasted. Set them aside to cool.
Next, quarter 4 small beets, or cut 2 large beets into 1″ pieces–you’ll want to end up with about 1 cup of beet pieces. While recipes with beets often call for peeling, if your beets are fresh and tender (like those found in your fall share), there’s no need to peel. Steam the beets for about 10 minutes.
Grab a large bowl and add 4 teaspoons lemon juice and 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch. Whisk these together until the cornstarch is dissolved. Keep this bowl close by; it’s where you going to be adding the rest of your filling ingredients.
Cut 4 Gala apples (or whatever kind of apple you have on hand) into 2″ pieces to end up with around 5 cups of pieced apples. Next, half 1 cup of pitted dates. Add both the apple and date pieces to the bowl. Once the beets are done steaming, add them to the bowl, along with 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and a pinch each of salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix this all together until the fruit/veggie pieces are coated. Set aside.
If you have eight ramekins, lightly grease them to prepare them for the filling. Ramekins work well for company or if you want to easily hand out individual servings. If you don’t have ramekins, transfer the filling to a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Whichever you use, cover it tightly with tin foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
Back to the topping. First, set aside 1/4 cup each of the toasted nuts and oats. You’ll be using them for finishing touches at the very end. Next, get out your food processor and pulse the following ingredients together until combined (about 5 pulses): 1/2 cup of the toasted oats, 5 tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar or coconut sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Remember that butter you set aside at the beginning? Add that, along with half of the toasted nuts, over the topping mixture and process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture clumps together. Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and oats over the mixture and finish with 2 quick pulses.
Assuming your filling is finished baking, remove it from the oven, uncover, and stir well. Cover the filling with pieces of the topping–it won’t cover it completely, which is fine. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, rotating the dish(es) halfway through baking. When the topping is lightly browned and the fruit is tender and bubbling around the edges, you’re good to go! Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
I recommend serving with the purest vanilla ice cream you can find and/or real whipping cream. Finally, sprinkle the reserved toasted nuts and oats on top of the ice cream. Enjoy!
Photography: Anne Kingma