Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Rhubarb, with its scarlet stalks and giant green leaves, heralds spring. A very tart vegetable with serious pucker power is most often used in spring desserts. Rhubarb is only around for a short time in the spring and is ritually turned into some form of dessert or another in my kitchen. Growing up, almost every year my mom would harvest rhubarb from the garden and make a rustic rhubarb cake with a beautiful meringue topping. A recipe passed down from her mom. This year I transformed the first rhubarb of the season into a simple and delicious strawberry rhubarb crisp.
I know many people have fond memories of eating rhubarb straight from the garden dipped into a jar of sugar. Plain, simple and delightful. Crisp (or crumble) is almost as simple and equally delicious. It is a wonderfully rustic dessert that can be adapted to whatever fruit is in season. It is quick and easy to make for a large crowd and a great way to use up extra fruit. Crisp is just one of a whole family of classic fruit desserts with playful names like crumble, cobbler, grunt, slump, brown betty, pandowdy, fool and buckle.
Rhubarb and strawberries appear around the same time and are a perfect pairing. The sweetness of the berries helps to naturally cut the tartness of the rhubarb and lend a gorgeous pink colour to your desserts. Apples and raspberries also work nicely with rhubarb. I used a lovely wildflower honey from Jane’s Honey Bees in the fruit filling, which paired beautifully with the rhubarb and strawberries.
Aside from crisp, one of my favourite ways to use rhubarb is to make a simple compote with strawberries and honey and serve it over yogurt, as a sundae topping for ice cream or on pancakes. A friend kindly gave me some rhubarb from her garden yesterday, from a plant that has been in the family for 100 years. How amazing is that? All this talk about strawberries and rhubarb, I think I will whip up some compote for an afternoon treat.
If you have never cooked with rhubarb, now is the time. Rhubarb is sprouting up in gardens all over the West Coast and making an appearance at farmers’ markets. If you don’t have your own plant, perhaps your neighbour would be happy to give you some in exchange for some strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
You can use fresh or frozen fruit in the this recipe. If using frozen fruit you may wish to increase the cornstarch in the filling to 1 tbsp. Apples also pair nicely with rhubarb if you can’t get nice strawberries. Feel free to use less sugar depending on how sweet your berries are.
1/2 cup spelt flour (or flour of choice)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt and cinnamon
1 pound rhubarb (about 4 cups) trimmed and chopped into small pieces
1/2 pound strawberries (about 2 cups) hulled and chopped into quarters
1/3 cup wildflower honey (or unrefined cane sugar)
2 tsp cornstarch or flour
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375F. Butter an 8 x 8 inch square or 9 inch round baking dish. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork until it forms a crumbly mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix the rhubarb, strawberries, cornstarch and honey.
Transfer the fruit filling to the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the crisp topping. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the topping is golden and the filling bubbles up through the topping.
Cool for 20 – 30 minutes before serving. It is lovely with ice cream or yogurt.