I’ve been reminiscing about my childhood. Being raised by two loving Grandparents, I have many fond memories of them and that little pink house that Grandpa had built. It’s interesting that food, even in its simplest form can bring back former days or moments, sometimes good and bad. Lately for me it has been rhubarb and strawberries.
Growing up in Idaho I remember when the spring days would get longer and the temperatures would begin to climb; produce from the garden began to increase. The garden was my Grandfathers pride and joy and probably a place of solace as well. He would bring in armfuls of greens, still warm from the sun with the smell of fresh soil still hugging at the roots. But what really got me excited was when it was time to harvest the rhubarb. It was a very short period during the spring when our few plantings of rhubarb would be ruby red and ready for harvest and the strawberries were heavy, bright red and sweet. This was the time for strawberry and rhubarb pie. And boy, did my Grandma know how to make a pie.
Like most Grandmothers there wasn’t a recipe only intuition and her hands that new the task well. I loved to watch her. We didn’t talk much when she was baking, but she would hum and I would kneel on the kitchen stool sneaking a berry or taking a leftover stalk of rhubarb and dip it into the sugar bowl. Grandma would scoop her coffee cup into the flour tin then into the sugar, giving the mix a turn with her hands. Adding the shortening and butter, (at what ratio I will never know) she would use her fingers to blend the ingredients. Then came the iced water drip by drip until it was the consistency she needed. When it was time to roll the dough the decks would be cleared and a toss of flour went onto the board, then the rolling pin was produced to finish the job. It all seemed so easy, and I relished the entertainment. But probably even more I enjoyed the results. The tender, flaky crust that encased the sweet tart blend of freshly harvested rhubarb and strawberries is a combination that cannot be improved upon.
If the prospect of baking a pie sends you running in the other direction, but you still want to enjoy the perfect paring of rhubarb and strawberry, try this recipe. It is a delightfully simple crisp with a hazelnut oatmeal top that is sure to please. Serve the crisp warm in bowls with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
I think even Grandma would have liked it.
Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisp
- 1 lb. rhubarb, sliced in 1 in. pieces
- 2 pints strawberries, hulled, sliced in half
- Zest and juice from 3 blood oranges (or whatever oranges you have on hand)
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, chilled, cubed
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup oats
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped coarsely
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8 x 11 baking dish and set aside. In a bowl combine sliced rhubarb, strawberries, zest and juice from the oranges, flour and sugar. Toss gently to incorporate flour and sugar throughout. Pour into prepared baking dish.
For the topping I like to use a food processor, but a pastry cutter, fork or even your fingers work as well. Combine chilled, cubed butter, with the flour, sugar and salt, pulse a few times until butter is the size of small peas. Add oatmeal and pulse once or twice, just enough to get it mixed through, but not chopped too small. Crumble mixture over the top of the strawberry rhubarb mixture. Top with the roasted hazelnuts and bake for 45 minutes until the top is browned nicely and the mixture is bubbling through the cracks.
Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.