rhubarb crisp

I have a measly rhubarb patch in the back of my garden. Each year I hope it will yield a few more hearty crimson stalks but usually I am disappointed. Such a shame, when my appetite for rhubarb is immense. There is so much to love about rhubarb. First of all, there is the plant itself often one of the first things to emerge from the winter ground with its broad green leaves and bright red stalks. Then there is the intense saturated pink colour it turns when cooked. Can you think of any other fruit or vegetable that replicates this colour? And finally, its taste: tantalizingly tart yet sweet.

There are two ways I love to eat rhubarb. The first I learned from a chef I worked for who had trained in Cannes, France. We would cut the stems into pieces about 4-5 inches long and then poach them in the oven in white wine, sugar, and split vanilla bean pods until tender. At the restaurant, we served this poached rhubarb with duck but behind the scenes in the kitchen we would often finish off a long night of service with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with the soft pieces of rhubarb and the sweet, syrupy sauce. Divine.

The other way I like to eat rhubarb is to make a crumble or crisp. The contract between the rough, buttery top and the soft, silky fruit bottom is a heavenly combination. This is another one of those simple desserts that always pleases. It literally can be thrown together in minutes. My neighbour, Kristin, made my recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp a few days ago and took this beautiful picture. The recipe follows below.

Rhubarb Crisp
5 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb (from about 2 pounds)
2 cups halved strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
175 g cold butter, diced
200g all purpose flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp white sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well coated and then pour into pie plate or dish.
For the Topping:
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers. Fork the sugars and salt into the mixture. It should be lumpy. Spoon topping on top. The two mixtures should be piled high in the dish as they will both cook down.
Bake at 375F for 30-45 minutes or until brown.