Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp/Crumble

Despite all this avowed loyalty to the southwestern lands of the US, I am and always will be a midwesterner at heart. Living in Michigan during my "formative years", I was able to experience the joys of a garden that, in the summer time, bestowed all kinds of delicious fruit and vegetables. Although I was more than on board with picking and eating the berries or snap peas directly from my mother's well-tended garden, I was always wary of the large celery-type looking thing that was rhubarb. It didn't help matters that my mother had warned me off the stuff by saying that the leaves were poisonous.

Why would anyone eat such a thing?

She would attempt to incorporate it into various summer pies or cobblers, but my mind was resolutely made up that no quasi-posionous foot item that so resembled a vegetable could possibly be delicious.

This opinion stuck with until my move to England, where I found it incorporated into all number of desserts, usually served with custard or cream. And thus only recently did I discover the joys of fresh summer rhubarb, made better still by combining it with sugar, rolled oats, and cinnamon. The crumble or crisp being one of my favorite desserts, when Mark Bittman came up with this easy beauty of a rhurbarb crumble, I couldn't pass it up. Although it was in season when I made this, I still worried that my "Tesco-sourced" rhubarb would be too tart for the scant amount of sugar that Bittman includes with the recipe. So I upped it by about 1/4 cup.
Tell me adding sugar to anything is wrong.
Go ahead, tell me.

Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended

Serves about 6-8


6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the pan

2 1/2 to 3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 to 6 cups)

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice

1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste

Pinch salt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup pecans


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking or gratin dish with a little butter. Toss rhubarb with white sugar, orange or lemon juice and zest, and spread in baking dish.

2. Put the 6 tablespoons butter in a food processor along with brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, and pulse for about 20 or 30 seconds, until it looks like small peas and just begins to clump together. Add oats and pecans and pulse just a few times to combine.

3. Crumble the topping over rhubarb and bake until golden and beginning to brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

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