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THE AMERICAN TABLE: Recipe for summer crisp with pecan streusel topping

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When we think "hot off the grill," we usually think about something meaty. But this time of year I also like to grill desserts!

In late summer, I make this grilled fruit crisp every week. It is good with whatever fruit you find at the market, ripe and ready to be mixed with a little bit of sugar, citrus and cinnamon. The addition of orange liqueur is optional, but one that I always opt for as it makes a big difference. If you don't have any orange liqueur, a bit of bourbon is nice, too.

Since the topping of the crisp is everyone's favourite part of the dessert, I add oatmeal and pecans to the classic butter-flour-sugar blend to make it even crunchier and more substantial.

When you toss the fruit with the sugar and cornstarch, be sure to mix well and let the fruit sit for 5 minutes to bring out the natural juices, then mix again. And when baking, make sure you bake it long enough for the cornstarch and fruit juices to bubble up and turn opaque or your crisp will taste slightly raw and gritty instead of silky smooth.

The dessert is made for easy entertaining since you can assemble it early in the day and grill it just before you want to eat it. You also could bake it in advance and serve it at room temperature.

Generally, I put the crisp on the grill over indirect medium heat right when I take the meat off the grill. That way, it is bubbling and hot when everyone is ready for dessert and I love the drama of lifting the lid off the grill in front of my guests. And of course this crisp is best served with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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SUMMER CRISP WITH PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING

I make this crisp most often with a combination of berries, but almost any combination of fruit is delicious. Aim for a total of 8 to 10 cups of sliced fruit.

Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 8

For the streusel topping:

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup regular or quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces

For the filling:

3 cups strawberries, halved

3 cups blueberries

2 cups blackberries or raspberries

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup granulated sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of the fruit

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)

Vanilla ice cream, to serve

Prepare a grill for medium heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side.

To make the topping, in a large bowl combine all ingredients except the butter. Mix well. Add the butter, then use a pastry blender or forks to work it in until the mixture resembles large, coarse breadcrumbs. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a second large bowl combine all ingredients, mixing gently. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the berry mixture in an oven-safe 4-quart round casserole or souffle dish, or a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Crumble the streusel mixture evenly over the fruit. Place the crisp over the cooler side of the grill, cover the grill and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is browned. Transfer the baking dish to a cooling rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving: 540 calories; 210 calories from fat (39 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (12 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 80 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 50 g sugar; 5 g protein; 135 mg sodium.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."

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