A fruit crisp or crumble, in this case a Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp, is my kind of dessert. Crisps, crumbles, cobblers, buckles, bettys — I’ll take them all. I can’t resist buttery clusters of dough and oats against fruit that’s been roasted until softened and concentrated into the best version of itself. And I love that they’re acceptable as dessert or breakfast.
Berries or apples are always a go-to in these circumstances, but I finally decided to try rhubarb when I found some at the market on my way home from work.
To prepare rhubarb for this crisp, it is trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces. The stalks are a dusty red and green on the inside. It kind of looks like celery from the future. If I’d seen this vegetable as a kid, I would’ve looked the other way on vegetables for a while.
And yet, my first rhubarb sighting this year was in the most unexpected of places: home. It was the Publix near my parents’ house, in a very Miami part of Miami where I am not at all used to finding the produce I expect to find at Whole Foods. I have never seen rhubarb served in Miami. It’s more mango, berries, and guava. But there it was! And now, it was time it graced my kitchen as well.
I made the crisp that same night I found the rhubarb, and though it doesn’t take long at all to put together the crisp, one after-work thing to do after another meant I finally pulled it out of the oven around midnight. On a school night! One bite in and I can tell you it was so worth the wait. I couldn’t believe how wonderful, delicious, and balanced it was. We went back for seconds.
So what makes this crisp special? Orange zest, cardamom, and nutmeg. These flavors play so well with rhubarb it’s a wonder they aren’t partnered with rhubarb as frequently as strawberry. I’m combining rhubarb and raspberry next.
Before landing on this crisp recipe from Bon Appétit, I flipped through Nigel Slater’s Ripe for inspiration and learned there are more than 100 varieties, including Valentine, a late-season variety that shows up in June with bright red stems and heart-shaped leaves. Since I’m on my way to being Mrs. Valentine, officially, I obviously need to get my hands on it. Goliath, Hawke’s Champagne, and Granddad’s Favorite sound like great rhubarb varieties, too. He says:
“How could anyone not love something known as the pie plant — or indeed, anything whose stems offer such vibrant color at a time of the year when so much of our fruit is sleeping?”
Slater also explores using rhubarb beyond pie and crumbles. A rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake is calling my name and so is a roast leg of pork with spiced rhubarb. The poached, hot pink stems are beautiful next to mackerel in one of the photos.
Rhubarb is a keeper. I get it now. I even made a song for it! Just replace the words “rude boy” in Rihanna’s song with “rhubarb.” I made some other changes, too.
Come here rhubarb, barb
Can you bake it up
Come here rhubarb, barb
Is you sweet enough
Bake it, bake it
And in that other verse Give it strawberry like boom, boom, boom…
So catchy, right?
More rhubarb love:
A rhubarb shake (!!) from my fave, Melissa Clark.
rhubarb and strawberry crisp with cardamom and nutmeg
Crisps, crumbles, and all their cousins are some of my favorite desserts, in part because they are such forgiving recipes. I baked this in my 11-inch quiche pan but you can use a regular pie pan, a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, or divide it between small ramekins. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine via epicurious. The original recipe called for adding orange juice, but I didn’t have any in the house and we didn’t miss it at all. The fruit bubbled up with enough liquid on its own and it was sweet enough.
for the topping:
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
generous pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
for the filling:
1 pound fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
2 cups (about 3/4 pound) halved strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Mix first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until moist clumps form.
Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or baking dish. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes.
Transfer rhubarb mixture to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until topping is golden brown and crisp and filling is bubbling around edges, about 40 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream.
Serves about 6.