Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rhubarb and a Recipe

I've been married for almost 30 years, and every year we've been married, Nigel has asked me to make him a strawberry rhubarb pie. And every year I've resisted. If we're out at a restaurant or a cafe, and they have strawberry rhubarb anything on the menu, I know he will order it.

Why have I thwarted something my husband so obviously loves?

Because I grew up in a household with parents whose idea of cooking a meal was to cook it so long it turned to watery mush (the very English style of cooking, it used to be called -- I hear the English have since gotten better at cooking.) I knew to distrust anything my mom or dad gave me that they said tasted good. They grew rhubarb in our back yard, and made strawberry rhubarb ....stuff....with it. I don't know if my mom was just very stingy with the sugar, or with the strawberries, but to my child's palate, there was not enough sugar or strawberries in the world to make this stringy, tough, sour thing that looked like a red celery stalk into something delicious.

I don't know why, but this year when my husband suggested growing rhubarb I paused and said, "Y-ye........OK." It was hard to continue to say no when he pointed out that it had big leaves and red stems. (Who knows, maybe next time I ask if we can have chickens, he'll surprise me by enthusiastically saying yes.)

I bought lots of compost to add to the planting hole. I've heard that rhubarb is a heavy feeder.

And a few days later when I was at Fred Meyer, I bought these two little cutie-pies. They were only $1.99, and I figured we could use a couple of spares. 

Now I just have to decide where to plant them.

Since I was now going to grow rhubarb, I figured I better learn how to cook it. So I bought some at the very same Fred Meyer, and set about searching the web for recipes. Here's a recipe that I like, based on one that I modified (I even ate the result and loved it, of course the ice cream I served with it helped).

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

4 cups fresh sliced rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup water
1 quart of strawberries
1 tsp. vanilla

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup butter, frozen (Stick it in the freezer as soon as you start making this)
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup oatmeal

 Wash and then slice the rhubarb about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut off the tough petiole end, and the bit where they always leave a little bit of leaf. Toss those in your compost bin.

Four stalks of rhubarb makes about 4 cups of sliced.

Put the sliced rhubarb in the slow cooker with the water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Cook it in the slow cooker for about 1 1/2 hours.
Wash, hull and quarter a pound of strawberries, and then add them to the slow cooker along with the vanilla, and let it cook for another hour. (Don't forget to throw the hulls from the strawberries into your compost bin).

Combine the flour, sugar and oatmeal in a bowl.

Take the butter out of the freezer, and grate it with a cheese grater into the flour mixture. Work as quickly as possible, because you want the butter to stay as cold as possible. Your hot little hand will start to unfreeze it as soon as you touch it. Use a real cheese grater with big holes, not a microplane.

 As you're grating, stop every once in a while to fluff it into the flour mixture with a fork. (This technique works well with biscuits and pie crusts too).

 Remove and discard the cinnamon stick (If you're really hungry, you can lick the juices off the cinnamon stick before you toss it....I didn't do this.....honestly). Spoon the strawberry/rhubarb mixture out of the slow cooker into a pie plate, and top with the crumb mixture.

Pop it into an oven at 400 degrees for about half an hour, until the topping is brown and crisp. Let it cool a bit, and then serve it with ice cream.

 Try not to drip it onto your shirt.

I leave you with a question: Is the rhubarb a way to eke out the more rare and succulent strawberries, or are the strawberries a way to make the sour rhubarb palatable?