If you find something good, stick with it. It's a good motto—à la if it ain't broke—but it can be a quick way to get into a rut. So find something good and twist it a hair: Take the best part of a fruit crisp or crumble (the crunchy, sweet-salty-spicy topping—the fat streusel crumbles or the toasty, cinnamon-y oats) and swap in the fruit for vegetables or a grain salad, and cut the sugar from the topping. You'll have a savory crumble and a savory base, and you'll wonder why you let dessert have the monopoly on crumbles all this time.
At a tasting dinner for Just Food, an organization that promotes social justice through food, Amanda and I got to sample the wares of a slew of New York restaurants. The dishes that stood out most to us? Those that had a savory, salty, crumbly topping. There were vinegary roasted carrots with a brown butter-miso-milk powder crumble from Northern Spy; a salad of sorghum grains, sunflower seeds, and collards from Nightingale 9topped with sheets of toasted rice paper, like big shavings of Parmesan (maybe you saw me eating this on our Snapchat); and a mix of shaved carrots and Asian pear with a cashew-sesame seed crunch from Rouge Tomate. And just last night, someone offered me a bite of their kale salad—with granola in it.
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Savory crumbles—somewhere between a crouton and a powder—add texture and intrigue and punch. Here are some ways to put them on everything:
Bread crumbs are a good place to start exploring the world of savory crumbles. Add them to salad or pasta, or roast them right in with your vegetables.