Strawberry Crumble

March always does this to me. The first hint of a warm breeze and I'm overly excited for more permanent warmth. Eventually I will wake up on a pretty morning and dress for work in a sandals and a skirt without leggings underneath. I will then find myself walking through a windstorm in the parking lot knowing that all the other employees walking into work in jeans are laughing at me.

The same goes for produce. Strawberries start to grace the shelves in shades of crimson only slightly deeper than their pale December counterparts, and I giddily fill my cart, only to find later that they need significant help from a sprinkle of sugar before I can consider them palatable. I'm annually premature and I'm not sure I'll ever learn.

Enter this strawberry crumble. Grand Marnier, sugar and butter join forces with the otherwise subpar strawberries and create something not only palatable, but superb - early March or not.

You will need:

1 pound of strawberries, tops removed and cut in half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or cognac
1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup flour
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced
6 tablespoons rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped, or 1 tablespoon almond meal

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and butter to a medium bowl. Work the butter chunks into the flour mixture with your fingers, crumbling until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the oats and almonds/almond meal and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the strawberries.

Spray a pie plate or 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in halved strawberries, vanilla, lemon juice and Grand Marnier and toss gently to coat. Top strawberries with crumble mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Allow the crumble to rest and cool before serving.

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