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 9 topped 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.
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.
- Make a batch of savory granola and put it on salad—or in yogurt.
- Fry slices of shallots until super crispy, and sprinkle onto dips or roasted vegetables.
- Smash crispy fried chickpeas and sprinkle onto rice, curry, or wilted greens.
- Toast crumbled crackers in brown butter and spices. Put on everything.
- Sub in Rice Krispies for toast with your breakfast eggs.
- Ladle soup over strips of fried tortilla chips.
- Make a savory streusel-like topping from pine nuts and add to braised greens (or meats).
- Add a fistful black sesame crumble to a bowl of rice and greens. It's also excellent on rice pudding.
- Use flaky nutritional yeast and cashews as the base for salty, Parmesan-like topping.
Have you left behind sweet crumbles for savory? Tell us your ways!