It's Springtime, which means Rhubarb...
Or in this instance, a rhubarb crisp. Okay, so I have a little bit of an infatuation with this long, sometimes slender, sometimes chunky, red/speckled red & green/green vegetable. Yes, rhubarb is actually classified as a vegetable, but heaven's to Betsy--whatever Pioneer woman made use of this manna--I am forever grateful. While Ben and I were dating, we would be walking in some new neighborhood of Bellingham & I would stop in my tracks. Ben thinking I found something remarkable or writhing in pain, because of the deep sigh & deer in head lights stare. What? What? He'd ask. Then, I would point.
I had a gift of spotting those huge, elephant like leaves protruding from behind a high backyard fence at least 100 meters away. In fact, as I sat gazing at some (meanwhile, Ben was probably thinking how silly it was) rhubarb, the owner of the house came out back and said hello. But also kind of wondered what I was looking at. I said I was admiring his rhubarb and then he offered me to take some. I really wanted to, but I felt like that was crossing a line.
Rhubarb to me says Springtime. The quintessential springtime pie is a Strawberry-Rhubarb (I'll be saving that recipe for a bit later). The house I lived in the year I was engaged had a big window looking out to the neighbors yard. I had been admiring their rhubarb plant in early April (I even inspected it for it's bounty). When it hit May, the time at which the stalks were ready for harvesting, I walked to the neighbor's door to ask them if they were going to use their rhubarb (that line I was fine crossing--they were college students who most likely didn't have a clue as to a rhubarb plant being there). My prediction was correct and they didn't know anything about it and gave me the green light.
Well, I wasn't quite ready for pulling off the stalks as I needed some strawberries. A few days later, in the morning, I got awoken by the sound of a tractor outside my window. When I came into the kitchen, I absolutely freaked out. There was a mini bulldozer/tractor (I have girls, not boys) something or other outside my window. It was pulling up all of the ground along the side of the house and I feared for the safety of my rhubarb. They were plowing right next to my love and I didn't know if they were alright. There was only one thing to do.
I went outside in my pajamas to stop the man on the John Deere to see what he was doing and if he was aware of my bounty awaiting its fate I had planned out? And there, like a diamond in the rough lay my rhubarb--right next to plowed up ground. I didn't hesitate and pulled them up right there on the spot, brought them into the safety of my home. Where they intoxicated me with their tangy, red smell as I cut them into slices and mixed them up with sliced strawberries. We enjoyed our first Strawberry-Rhubarb pie of the season that night.
And last night we had our Japanese Community friends over. Their names are Ayumi & Maho and I taught them how to make spaghetti from scratch & introduced them to what will hopefully not be their last taste of rhubarb. I found rhubarb at the Farmer's Market yesterday, but strawberries are not quite in season. So, we made do & made a crisp, which to me is just as satisfying without all the primping that comes from a pie. Here's to kicking off Spring!
Rhubarb Crisp (printable recipe)
I made this on the fly, because crisps are so forgiving & easy. It's a humble cousin to a rhubarb pie, but I find it just as good. It reminds me of my favorite summer breakfast of plain yogurt, fresh fruit & granola, except in dessert form. And if you don't have a food processor for the crisp, then use a pastry cutter, or a fork, or best of all--your hands.
4-5 cups sliced rhubarb (around 6 rhubarb)
1 cup unrefined sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachio
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tb unsalted butter, cold cut into 1/4 inch squares
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350. Clean rhubarb stalks & slice into roughly 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Put sliced rhubarb into a medium bowl, along with 1 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, orange & lemon zest. Dive in with your hands and mix it all together. Dump this into an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish. Set aside.
Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, pistachios, & salt into a bowl of a food processor. Mix to combine (3 seconds). Put in the butter & pulse 7-9 times. Some of the butter will most likely still be in whole form. Dump the contents into a large bowl. Then, use your hands & fingers to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Don't be bashful, imagine you're a kid playing with play dough. At the end, your crisp part will look comparable to wet sand. Spread the mixture atop the rhubarb mixture.
Bake for 30-40 minutes. Okay, so I didn't time it unfortunately. But what you're looking for is a golden crust, the smell of rhubarb-spiced goodness & if you can pierce a fork through the rhubarb--it's good to go. You can let it cool for a bit (10-15 minutes), or serve it up right away. No judgment. Top with some vanilla ice cream as any crisp always tastes better with it. And there you have a slice of Spring.