Memorial Day will soon be here, marking the unofficial start to summer.

Somewhere between putting hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and whipping up the first bowl of potato salad, we should all take some time to reflect on the true meaning of the national holiday: Remembrance.

Cemeteries will be filled with rows of flags reminding us of those who served so that we might enjoy the liberty that allows us to savor that picnic food.

Perhaps we’ll plant geraniums on the graves of loved ones who have passed.

When I reminisce, I often seem to focus on those who have fed me: My grandmothers, for certain, but also many other relatives, neighbors and friends.

They left a lasting impression on my recipe box.

I learned to make pecan pie many years ago from an elderly widower who had brought one to a church council meeting I attended. When I remarked that I was impressed by his baking skill, he told me simply to follow the recipe on the back of the Karo syrup bottle. I did and had similar success.

I still find the recipe to be one of the most reliable for pecan pie, particularly for beginners.

When I was growing up, my family lived next door to an elderly Italian couple. The wife, Josephine, shared many of her recipes with my mom, who since has passed them on to me and my sister, including her Easter bread and the flavorful Parmesan croutons she would float on steaming bowls of wedding soup.

Another name that turns up frequently at the top of my recipe cards is Karen Violette.

Karen was a reporter at the Tribune Chronicle in Warren, Ohio, where I got my first newspaper job after college.

Unlike most of the reporters, who were in their early 20’s, Karen began her journalism career after raising her family of four sons. She quickly became the den mother of our staff, often bringing in treats to feed us or opening her door to strays who might be looking for a home-cooked meal on weekends.

Karen cooked and baked everything in large quantities — enough to feed her big brood and the friends and neighbors who were routinely at her table. She shared her recipes as readily as she shared her food.

Karen died five years ago, far too young at age 64.
I remember her every time I lift the lid on my recipe box and prepare a dish she shared with me.

Her apple-crisp recipe is perfect for passing along for Memorial Day. It is equally good served hot, cold or at room temperature, making it ideal cookout fare. And it can be made a day ahead.
With just five ingredients, the dessert comes together in a snap, largely because it uses canned apple-pie filling. Karen understood that busy working people need a few shortcuts now and then.

And the recipe makes enough (think lasagna pan) to feed 15 or more, so it’s sized right for sharing at a potluck or picnic.

KAREN VIOLETTE’S APPLE CRISP
Makes 15 to 20 servings
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups brown sugar
Cinnamon, to taste
2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine, melted
3 cans (21 ounces each) apple pie filling
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11-by-14-inch baking pan or coat with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, mix flour and sugar together until well-blended. Add cinnamon, to taste. Add melted butter and stir to combine.
Mixture will be crumbly.
Place half of the mixture in the bottom of prepared pan. Spread pie filling over top.
Top with remaining flour mixture. Sprinkle top with additional cinnamon.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Note: If desired, sprinkle 1/2 cup of finely chopped nuts over the top, or combine ˝ cup of quick oatmeal with top portion of flour mixture before spreading over pie filling.
PER SERVING: (based on 18) 405 calories, 2 g protein, 78 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 49 g sugars, 10 g fat (6 saturated), 27 mg cholesterol, 59 mg sodium

— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at labraham@dispatch.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.