Bishop refers to itself as a “Small Town with a Big Backyard.” We are always grateful we get to play in that yard. In early August we escaped from LA to spend a week at our cabin, not far from Bishop. A week that brought me a big step towards wanting to make this my home.
After unloading the car, we took our dogs for a welcome-back-to-the-Sierra hike, then headed down the mountain to Bishop for a night of music at a magical venue. Mill Creek Station is an outdoor theater carved out of an old stone quarry. Piles of boulders frame the musicians, Sierra peaks tower on one side, the almost as majestic White Mountains form the backdrop on the opposite side. Daytime temperatures in the high desert can be searing, but in the evening, the air turns soft and the breeze caressing, perfect for sitting outdoors listening to live music.
Back at the cabin, the sky was an intense blue we never see in Los Angeles, the air sparkling, and wild flower gardens had sprung up everywhere, making it hard to believe that the trails and meadows had been buried under yards (not merely feet) of snow only a few months ago. It was almost impossible to stay indoors. We hiked up mountain paths that had been impassible since last November, and boated on lakes that hadn’t been this full for four years. We even swam in the frigid water.
And when our cupboards needed refilling, we headed to my favorite place in Bishop, Apple Hill Ranch, to pick peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and blackberries, all bursting with sweet juices created by the intense sun, rich earth, unpolluted air, and pure water that had just tumbled down from the mountains.
When Jen invited us to one of her legendary taco dinners, I offered to make a peach and blackberry crisp. I spent only a few minutes in the morning tossing together the nut, brown sugar, butter and spice topping, before we headed out for a day of playing on South Lake with friends. We boated around the lake before mooring at an island. We explored the islet, the dogs raced around, people paddle boarded, kayaked, and swam, we snacked while Jordan and Marty played guitar.
Jordan had an idea for a promotional photo for his band—he parked his paddleboard along the shore of the island, and stood on it playing his guitar. As Katharine snapped photos, a breeze picked up and Jordan floated out towards the middle of the lake, without a paddle. Tony was swimming nearby and took off after the strumming musician, just as the breeze turned into a wind, moving Jordan so quickly, Tony couldn’t catch him. Katharine jumped into a kayak and raced after. Jordan managed to ease himself down to a sitting position while holding the guitar overhead and grabbed on to the kayak to be pulled back to shore.
We returned to the cabin with just enough time to cut up the peaches and bake the crisp. As I looked at the voluptuous fruit I’d harvested the day before, I decided to use not only peaches and blackberries, but nectarines, apricots and plums too. The aroma of the baking dessert was so tantalizing, I couldn’t resist sneaking a taste before we carried it over to dinner at Jen’s. It burst with flavors as brilliant as the fruit was beautiful. Using several fruits transformed a reliable favorite into a memorable dessert that was a celebration of everything good about summer. Even better than eating it ourselves, was watching the expressions on Jen’s kids’ faces as they dove in for one spoonful after another.
We headed back to LA with the same mixed emotions I felt when I was a kid returning home after summer camp—elated from the intense fun but sad to be leaving it behind. This week had felt just like summer camp, but with visions of mixed fruit crisp rather than s’mores dancing in our heads.
Mixed Fruit Crisp
- 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
- ¾ cup gluten-free all purpose flour (such as King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour or Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
- ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
- 1 stick (½ cup) chilled unsalted butter, sliced
- ½ cup chopped almonds, walnuts and/or pecans
- 2 pounds ripe stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, apricots and/or plums, unpeeled, cut into ½" wide wedges
- 2 cups fresh blackberries or raspberries
- ⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free all purpose flour (such as King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour or Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Vanilla Ice Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
- Combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt and spices in a medium bowl and mix well to combine. Add the cold butter and squeeze the butter and flour mixture together until moist crumbs form. Mix in the nuts. (The topping can be prepared several hours ahead and left and room temperature, or 1 day ahead and then covered and refrigerated.)
- Preheat the oven to 375℉.
- Combine the stone fruit, berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Mix gently to combine.
- Transfer the fruit mixture to an 8X11" glass baking dish. Distribute the topping over in an even layer. Bake until your kitchen is filled with an enticing fragrance, the fruit bubbles around the edges, and the topping browns, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.
- Serve the crisp hot, warm or at room temperature, spooning into bowls. Top with big scoops of vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.