Wednesday, June 1, 2011

strawberry rhubarb crisp

In the 4th grade my teacher asked the class how many of us had grandparents living. I was one of the few in the class to raise my hand for having all four living. (Yes, I know, many people now in the age of blended or redefined families have 16 or so people they call grandparents, but back then, 4 was the normal maximum.) Many of my friends had only 1 or 2 grandparents living and this made gave me a strange impression that grandparents were ephemeral creatures who might at any time disappear without warning.

I decided that since time with the grandparents was obviously fleeting, I'd better invest in the relationships as much as was possible. Given that we all lived in different states, I started a letter writing campaign. I strove to write to my grandparents at least once a week, although it ended up being probably closer to once a month.

I would write long, chatty notes about what I was doing in school, my tough homework assignments, my dance classes, the boys I thought were cute, the onerous camping trips we went on, my bouts of stomach flu, and the funny things the dog did. In return I'd get nice, fulsome letters detailing their gardens.

Their letters would give status updates on the runner beans, how the tomatoes were coming along, and the awful things that late spring cold snap had done to the apricot blossoms. I decided that being an old person meant your life was extremely boring and you had nothing to live for except your garden.

My sister and I shared this view of gardening obsession and nodded knowingly to each other when our father's letters started being mainly garden-related. Yes, he was turning into an old person. Sure he can grow beans, carrots, and tomatoes like nobody's business, but it's kind of sad when you have nothing else to write about.

Then my sister and I were exchanging emails this past week, catching up on our schedules, the weather in our respective states, and how said weather was affecting our....gardens. Yes, it's true. We're old people now, too.

Luckily, I still have challenging, bewildering, frustrating, amazing, frustrating, and wonderful children to give me things to think about besides my garden. I say luckily because I'm a lousy gardener. Anything that goes into the ground is on its own out there. It had better be tough, hardy, and able to withstand unarmed assaults by armies of slugs. (Well, they don't have arms, do they? Just nasty, slimy feet and voracious, munching jaws.)

When my grandchildren write to me, I'm sure they'll be thrilled to hear back from me the details of how the blueberries, oregano, and rhubarb are doing, because that's all that survive my harsh gardening techniques (plant it and ignore it). Hopefully, they won't even have to have me write about it. If they live close enough, they can come over and pick blueberries to munch, oregano to put on a pizza, and rhubarb to put into a crisp. Because, really, wouldn't you rather eat from a garden than hear about it?

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

4 cups fresh rhubarb, 1-inch diced (4 to 5 stalks)
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbsp Stevia Extract (not pure Stevia)*
1-1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup all-purpose flour (you can substitute 1/2 with white whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats
12 Tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

*I buy the kind that's cut with lactose for table use. It's available at Trader Joe's. If you can only find pure Stevia, use about 1/4 tsp.

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack in the center of the oven.

2- Toss together the rhubarb, strawberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, stevia, and the orange zest in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then mix it into the fruit. Pour the mixture into an 8 x 11-inch baking dish and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch drips, in case the crisp bubbles over.

3- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, and oatmeal. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles.

4- Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Jennifer Jo said...

"In return I'd get nice, fulsome letters detailing their gardens."

Made me laugh out loud---so true!

Marysol said...

Gee, that crisp looks delicious to me, topped with ice cream!

I have a confession to make. I used to hate rhubarb, up until about a year ago. Now, I can't get enough. I even froze last spring's rhubarb, just so I could enjoy it year-round.

Btw, I want a granddaughter just like you, when I grow up. Some may argue that ship has already sailed, but there may be hope for me yet.

bellini said...

There was a day when I mailed many handwritten letters.I had 7 penpals from all over the world when I was in the 9th grade. I have since even met 2 of my "pals". Days of the letter are a thinjg of the past in my household , but we can still send chatty or quick e-mails every day.

Barbara said...

You were a sweet granddaughter! I wish my grandchildren wrote to me! Everything is email and text, if I get anything at all. We used to be such great letter-writers. It's a lost art!
Now crisps and crumbles are the perfect summer food...although I must admit I'm a purist when it comes to rhubarb. No strawberries in mine!

grace said...

...and now i'm feeling guilty that i haven't talked to any of my grandparents this week! they definitely have a lot of knowledge to impart, particularly when it comes to gardening. all right, all right, your words are duly noted. :)
meanwhile, this is a lovely treat. the color excites me most of all.

Elle said...

Guess some of us are lucky enough to have gardening grandparents mine either lived in a New York City apartment or were more interested in antiques than gardens. So much better to eat the bounth of the garden, especially if it is yummy rhubarb! Strawberries and rhubarb probably shared a bunk on the Ark they go so well together. This sounds so yummy!

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

I've only got 2 grandparents left, this makes me want to go and spend some time with them. In our apartment living, nobody has gardens though :(