When I was little, my grandmother used to grow rhubarb in her garden. It was a plant I’d never seen before, but I loved its candy cane red stalks and the times she’d use it for desserts. I remember helping to shoo away deer and other creatures from eating it and being warned never to eat it raw as it was poisonous.
(Side note: this fact a) doesn’t appear to be true (the leaves just contain poisonous substances) and b) I actually can’t tell if I made this memory up or not because I can’t actually remember this conversation.)
But anyway, to this day it’s an ingredient that intrigues me and something I wish I had more experience with (having eaten it maybe half a dozen times in my life).
Fun facts about rhubarb…
Raw rhubarb stalks are enjoyed on their own, dipped in sugar, in many countries including Finland, Norway and Iceland. In Chile, rhubarb is sold on the streets with salt and or dried chile pepper. (Again this points to me either having an active imagination as a child or having been lied to about the lethal toxicity of rhubarb.)
“In British theatre and early radio drama, the words “rhubarb, rhubarb” were repeated for the effect of unintelligible conversation on the background.” There is even apparently a 1980s remake comedy special entitled Rhubarb, Rhubarb where the only word ever uttered is Rhubarb – a clip. Oh those Brits.
Recently, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Bedstuy’s Nextdoorganics, which happens to be located right below my apartment building so it’s kind of perfect! I love their selection and have been adding on homemade bread from another Bedstuy favorite, Scratchbread, and farm fresh eggs. This is my second time receiving these goodies and I’m loving the different products – everything from watercress to ramps to mustard greens. It’s really upping my culinary game. In this week’s box of fruits and veggies were some nice stalks of rhubarb. Armed with my rhubarb and a couple green apples (a classic combination), I decided to make a crisp!
Interesting to note, while recipes online do not seem to discern between crisps and crumbles, there is actually a difference.
As a fantastic web page explains:
“Crisps also have a bottom layer of fruit, but their topping is much more crunchy than cobblers. Instead of a dough-like pastry that rises, the crisp is topped with a different proportion of butter, sugar and flour that is sort of crumbly, and only briefly browned in the oven. Crisps might include oats or granola in their topping as well.”
While “crumble(s) also begins with fruit at the bottom, but is topped with a different butter-flour-sugar mixture called a ‘streusel’. The three ingredients are mixed just until crumbly and then poured on top of the fruit. This dish is very similar to a crisp but the crumble originated in Britain whereas the crisp is seen as more American. Crisps are also more rich than crumbles with higher amounts of sugar, butter and flour.” #themoreyouknow
And whether a fruit crumble or crisp, they’re one of my favorite desserts and they’re easy to whip up on a moment’s notice. A little spoon full of vanilla ice cream on top paired with the sweet stewed fruit and the crunch of the topping…. You really can’t do better than this when it comes to dessert.
- 6 large apples, cored and diced
- 1 cup diced rhubarb
- 1 cup white sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1¾ cups quick cooking oats
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- Mix apples, rhubarb, 1 cup white sugar, ¼ cup flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl until thoroughly combined;
- Spread fruit mixture into bottom of prepared baking dish.
- Mix quick oats, 1½ cup flour, and brown sugar in a separate bowl;
- Cut butter into the oats mixture until crumbly.
- Spread the oats mixture evenly over the fruit mixture.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the fruit is bubbling and thick and the topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes; best served warm.