Monday, August 8, 2011

Brenda’s Last Season

One of the reasons I loved Law & Order so much is because New York City, where the show was shot, was a character that was just as important as the ones perpetrating and solving the crimes. When I left New York City for Los Angeles, Law & Order, which was filmed quite often in my Upper West Side neighborhood, was a great comfort and helped somewhat to ease my unrelenting homesickness.

The Closer, which takes place in Los Angeles and stars Kyra Sedgwick, is the same way. The city plays an integral role in each episode. Like with Law & Order, it’s fun to figure out exactly which neighborhood or street all the (fictional) murders are taking place.

Sedgwick’s character, deputy chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, is a sugar-addicted cop from the South who dresses in florals, doesn’t like driving and mispronounces L.A. street names. I completely indentify with Brenda, save for her penchant for florals. It is because of Sedgwick (and the stellar supporting cast) that my affinity for Los Angeles increases every summer, when The Closer returns to TNT for its all-too-short season.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting G.W. Bailey, a veteran character actor who plays one of Sedgwick’s subordinates on the show. Bailey gets to work both his comedic and dramatic chops playing Lieutenant Provenza, a several-times-divorced detective and gentleman who is one of the elder statesmen of the special homicide squad.  Every time I’ve ever seen a famous person, I’ve kept my New York cool and didn’t even acknowledge the person’s existence. Even when I saw Robert DeNiro on Hudson Street once. And, kids, I don’t jest when I say that I spent ages 18–20 trying to figure out what I could do to make Mr. DeNiro fall hopelessly, helplessly in love with me. Okay, so I didn’t keep my cool that day on Hudson Street. I literally couldn’t talk, so I was smart and didn’t even try.

When I saw Bailey, I went right up to him and told him how much I dug him. I was in a restaurant in downtown L.A. celebrating a collective birthday with some friends, whose birthdays also occur in August. Bailey was in the next booth with a cute girl, and both couldn’t have been sweeter. He told us some cool stuff about what would be upcoming on the show—no spoilers, though—and that the cast had just celebrated Sedgwick’s birthday, which, it turns out, is the same day as mine! (She’s two years younger.)

This is Brenda’s last season. She and her amazing gang are leaving TNT for greener pastures, and maybe some of the actors will even get to play criminals on some other cop show. So, why not pay homage to Brenda and bake up a fruit crisp, top it with ice cream and chow down while watching the deputy chief work her sweet magic on the perps?

Nectarine-Plum Crisp
Serves 8

There are so many options in the crisp world! You can make it gluten-free and veganize it; you can add ice cream or whipped cream (dairy or no dairy). You can use virtually any stone fruit you like: peaches, plums, pluots, apricots or even cherries if you have the patience to pit them. I recently made a nectarine-blackberry crisp that was gone by the following day, and I’m going to work in a blueberry crisp during the next week or so.

The filling
 8 cups chopped nectarines and plums (this depleted my cache of 8 nectarines and 3 plums)
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The topping
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond meal
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, diced into small pieces

Vanilla ice cream, optional (but why not?)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In large mixing bowl, stir together fruit, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. I usually let everything sit while I make the topping then I pour the fruit into a 9x13 baking dish, but you can pour the fruit into the baking dish as soon as everything’s combined.
3. To make the topping: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, almond meal, sugars, salt and butter. With clean hands, work through until mixture resembles large crumbs.
4. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the fruit and to cover completely.
5. Bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling, 50-55 minutes. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream. It’s what Brenda would do.