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Monday, May 04, 2009

rhubarb crisp

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My rhubarb is up!

Rhubarb, that harbinger of spring…  or for those of us living in Alaska, of summer! We’re thrilled to see it poking up out of the ground! I know, these little crinkled leaves don’t look like much, but once they get going, the stalks really shoot up! Since not very many types of fruit grow in Alaska (and strawberries and raspberries are still a long way off), we’re happy for any fruit-like substance that can eke out an existence in our backyards.

We’re even more excited than usual, because of the unusually warm and sunny weather we’ve had these last several days. Everyone I know has gone stark-raving mad, capering about in the sunshine and soaking up the rays as much as ever they can. I think we’ve gotten more sun this past week than most of us got in all of last year’s cold and rainy summer. Oh, does it feel good!

But rhubarb popping up in the garden does come with a certain sobering responsibility. Suddenly, I remember that I have several bags of sliced rhubarb in the freezer from last summer. And if I don’t use it up now, before the next crop comes in, I’ll be even more overwhelmed with rhubarb than usual. My rhubarb plants are divisions of my mom’s, planted over thirty years ago. I have no idea where they came from, but they are wonderful, with fat, tender, cherry-red stalks that produce all summer long (if I make sure to break off the flower stalks as they come up). If I’m not diligent about cooking and eating rhubarb and processing it to freeze, the plants are likely to overwhelm the entire front of my house.

So! We’ve been eating rhubarb crisp, apple-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb coffee cake, and rhubarb-apple pie. Here’s my recipe for rhubarb crisp, in case you still have some in your freezer from last year…  and a variation with apples that I like even better. But if your house is in danger from being overtaken by a rhubarb plant, I recommend the former recipe. It uses more rhubarb.

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rhubarb crisp

When the rhubarb is coming on strong, it’s time to take decisive action. This recipe is based on one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

half or all of the recipe of the crisp topping, below (to your taste)
10 heaping cups rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a small pinch of ground cloves (don’t go overboard here)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping and set it aside.
2. Combine the rhubarb with the sugar, flour, and spices. Coat a large gratin dish with oil or non-stick spray. Pour the fruit into the dish.
3. Bake, uncovered (without the topping), for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. (You can do this step earlier in the day if you’d like.)
4. An hour or two before you’re ready to eat the crisp, sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until the juices from the fruit are bubbling and the topping is brown. Serve hot or warm.

rhubarb-apple crisp

half or all of the recipe of the crisp topping, below (to your taste)
1 ½ pounds apples, peeled and cored
2 pounds rhubarb, diced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a small pinch of ground cloves (don’t go overboard)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping and set it aside. Dice the apples, then put them in a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Pour the fruit into a 2-quart gratin dish.
2. Bake, uncovered (without the topping), for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. An hour before you’re ready to eat the crisp, sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until the juices from the fruit are bubbling and the topping is brown. Serve hot or warm.

crisp topping

This recipe makes enough for 1 heavily-topped crisp, or 2 lightly-topped crisps. Make this recipe, and if you like a light topping, use half and freeze the rest until you want to make another crisp. Or use the whole amount of topping on one crisp.

Another note: the Loriva walnut oil is really fantastic; it’s roasty and toasty-tasting and very rich. Don’t bother using refined walnut oil, because it doesn’t have much flavor and the recipe won’t be nearly as tasty. Use butter, instead. If you don’t want to use walnuts, replace the nuts with an additional ½ cup of rolled oats.

6 tablespoons Loriva toasted walnut oil or melted butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup flour (whole wheat or white flour—whichever you prefer)
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients so you have a crumbly, moist mixture.


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