There seem to be fruit people and chocolate people when we’re talking dessert. You know who you are. I, for instance, am definitely not crazy about apple pie. (I love fresh apples.) I make a mean one and will have one small slice on the day it’s baked. It then belongs to Dave, his Dad, Sean, or whoever else is a pie lover. I love chocolate. Dave’s never loved chocolate, though in the last few years he’s begun to eat some. No longer are all the chocolate things in the house exclusively mine. At formal dinners when chocolate mousse or cake was served, both portions ended up in front of me; for years, he wouldn’t touch them. Then one day, he began eating his chocolate dessert, leaving me in the dust. He occasionally drinks a cup of decaf coffee, too. I don’t know what’s happening to my world. The coffee pot has always been totally mine.
I’ll admit, though, that I’m crazy about rhubarb or pie plant, (which is now in season in Colorado) just as I am about cranberries. The two have a lot in common when it comes to cooking and eating them. Both are so rude, crude, and sour that they’re inedible without some sweetening and cooking. Both are gorgeous, glorious, royalty red. I adore either mixed with other fruits; apples do well as a companion for rhubarb and cranberries.
Last year, I made a much larger Rhubarb-Blueberry Crisp with cinnamon and oatmeal: recipe here.
And, of course, all berries happily couple with each. Both of these red gems freeze perfectly with no great work. Throw the cranberries in a heavy plastic bag and dip into them for a year for muffins. Chop rhubarb in the spring, place just as it is in quart freezer containers, and you can have rhubarb-apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Day brunch. Stewed rhubarb or cranberry sauce can be frozen in small or large amounts; I like the small containers for topping yogurt or ice cream:
To stew rhubarb: Heat 2 cups chopped rhubarb with 1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar and water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, and cook until tender–maybe 15 minutes. Cool and place in two small freezer containers or serve on yogurt or ice cream. Also good on a peanut butter or a cream cheese sandwich. Makes about 4 small servings. Can double or triple, though make sure and taste the liquid as it cooks to see if you’d like more sweetener. (Optional: 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for each 2 cups rhubarb.) You can also make rhubarb sauce. Just continue to cook until the rhubarb is mushy and mash with a potato masher.
Since Colorado springs are long and complicated–often punctuated by big snow or ice storms–our spring crops come later than in the rest of the country; rhubarb and other true spring happinesses are only now showing up. Asparagus is at the market now late in May, and gorgeous birds, like this Western Tanager in my side yard, are now making nests or filling up before flying on…
If you’re still into spring or just have some rhubarb (I notice the newest food magazines are all summery-grilling issues), enjoy a little crisp. There might not exist a faster baked dessert for your inner pie-lover:
RHUBARB-RASPBERRY ALMOND CRISP
While vegetable gardening isn’t exactly possible up here on the mesa with our herd of daily deer, there are places in which things do grow. My Colorado rhubarb plant died while we lived in Saint Paul, so this crisp is made from rhubarb bought at the store. The cashier says, “Is this chard?” I’ll plant a new patch this fall.
- 4 cups trimmed rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 1/4 cups raspberries (about 6 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3/4 cup each: all-purpose unbleached white flour, brown sugar, and granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
- 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter
- Ice cream or whipped cream for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in the center of the oven.
To an ungreased 2-quart, oblong baking dish, add the rhubarb, raspberries, salt, and almond extract; toss. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugars, cinnamon, and almonds. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined — big crumbs — using a pastry cutter, your fingers, two knives, or pulsing slowly in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pour out the flour mixture on top of the rhubarb and raspberry mixture, spreading evenly.
Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 40-50 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Store totally cooled leftovers tightly wrapped on the counter for 2 days and then in the fridge for another 2 days. (Basic fruit desserts without cream or eggs needn’t be refrigerated. They are best warm or at room temperature.)
Truth in Recipes: The basic idea and proportions for my crisp came from an old ’70’s BETTY CROCKER cookbook, which appears periodically as a much-loved guest in my blog. I hope you’ve just such a good old dependable cookbook in your kitchen arsenal. I’ve jacked the basic crisp up with the berries, the almonds and almond extract, and changed both the kind of sugar and amount called for. Perhaps the recipe is nearly mine by now, but I’m happy to share credit with Betty any day.
Just a no reason shot of “the babies,” Tucker and Rosie, whom we often call “Miss Bo-Bo,” as she’s just a tad nutty about running from window to window announcing every person, dog, cat, bird, and bunny that just might be visiting our yard while I bake or nurse a bad cold. I live with a pocketful of kibble trying to persuade her to act otherwise. Exhale.
Sing a new song; sweeten up a little rhubarb today,