It may not surprise you to learn that at Superiority Burger—the shoebox-sized vegan-ish shop in NYC's East Village known for its no-meat burger, strangely delicious vegetable sides, and rotating roster of gelato and sorbet—chef Brooks Headley uses super seasonal local ingredients (flowering rapini, the year's first string beans and sour cherries) and every every scrap, odd, and end (focaccia slabs become focaccia gelato, and you bet raw Swiss chard salad includes the stems).
What is, in fact, surprising is that, amidst all of the farmers market ingredients, Headley, former Del Posto pastry chef and Piglet victor, turns to bagged convenience store snacks—the kind you'd stock up on for a long car ride, movie, or dull afternoon—to add layers of flavor to sides and desserts in unexpected ways.
There are pretzels—fried in olive oil, then crushed and sprinkled over pickled beets that are nestled in a bed of jalapeño cream cheese. There are corn chips—in a salad with bitter greens, grapefruit segments, and fried halloumi cubes; and over a mound of barbecue sauce-candied carrots. There are tortilla chips—churned into salty-sweet gelato.
And then there are sesame breadsticks (grissini al sesamo, if you prefer), those crunchy, cracker-y spears that look like jumbo pencils, that I've only ever encountered in the bread baskets of Italian restaurants. They're the garnish for tomato-y braised collard greens with hot sauce and honey, the oily crunch in a smashed cucumber salad with labneh dressing and brown rice, and—in this peach-blueberry crumble—the "flour" that comprises the sandy topping.
The breadsticks are savory, flavorful, addictive to begin with. Pulse them in a food processor, mix them with brown sugar and maybe a pinch of salt, and you have a crumb topping that adds complexity and balances the sweetness of the bubbly, syrupy fruit below. (Full disclosure, I have tried this with saltines for an equally delicious, though definitely saltier, result. And what about Ritz crackers?! Must try, too.)
The other fun trick? The richness of the topping comes not from butter, but from extra-virgin olive oil. That means you don't have to soften butter, yes, but it also makes the crumble vegan and adds additional fruity and spicy notes.
It's a total Headley move—to make a crumble that's better, and easier, than most you've tried before. In his words: "This one is very simple and the payoff is huge."
I, for one, will never take those sesame breadsticks for granted again. Next time I see them at an Italian restaurant, I'm taking them home.
P.S. If you're having trouble finding them, Headley writes that a "good Italian deli will have a serviceable sesame breadstick, either packaged or house made."
- 3 cups blueberries
- 3 cups diced peaches
- 3 tablespoons instant tapioca or arrowroot starch
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 2 cups coarse sesame breadstick crumbs (from grinding about 8 ounces in a food processor); leave some pieces coarse if you'd like to be able to see the sesame sticks
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
Have you ever tried making a crumble with a cracker topping? Let us know your preferred deliverer of crunch in the comments.