Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hello, Old Friend.

The title of this particular blog entry has two significances. The first one is that I am ashamed it has been a good portion of a year since my last blog post. In August, I found out we are expecting. Not that being pregnant is any excuse to let a blog go, but needless to say, I haven't been "mixing" much of anything noteworthy for the past eight months, and since I got put on bedrest on January, I've been banned from the kitchen (the horror!). The second significance is that today, I said hello to an old friend I've been missing since we moved away from Montana: rhubarb.

In our spacious backyard in Montana, we had a six square foot patch of rhubarb. The gorgeous, fig-shaped leaves were as big as elephant ears. At first, I had no idea what to do with all of those funny-looking red celery stalks, but with a little help from our friends in town, I quickly made use of the delightfully tart fruit/vegetable.

I recently picked up a flat of gorgeous strawberries from Sam's Club. I quickly tired of slicing them into bowls of cereal, and I just had too many to eat out of hand. Now that I'm allowed to be up and moderately active, I knew I had to acquire some rhubarb for a pie. I had seen some at Fresh Market, but when I got there they had baked them all into (you guessed it) strawberry-rhubarb pies. I thought my pie dreams were foiled until my dear friend, Elizabeth, found some at Publix for me. Thanks, Libbo!

I adapted the recipe from a one that first appeared in Bon Appétit Magazine in 1989 called Deep-Dish Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping. I made a few changes. I decided to use a (gasp) prepared pie crust because it's just easier. I don't have any other excuse. I also decided to omit the spices, cinnamon and nutmeg, from the original recipe because I wasn't going for a spicy, warm flavor. I wanted something tart-sweet and summery, which is exactly what I love about the combination of strawberry-rhubarb.

The crumble topping is so simple. I prefer a crumble topping on a fruit pie because of the added sweetness and texture. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one way to mix a crumble, and that's with your hands. Rub the butter between your fingers, making sure to mix it with the flour, sugar, and oats.

My favorite part about this recipe is that it makes a little extra fruit compote. Rhubarb is such a gorgeous, blush pink color when cooked. Spooned warm over vanilla ice cream, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the tongue.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Pie
recipe adapted from Bon Appétit June 1989

2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 pound rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 basket of strawberries, hulled and sliced into uniform pieces
juice of half of a lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pie crust, baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden

Preheat oven temperature to 375°F. Combine oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add butter and squish with hands until butter is fully incorporated and mixture is uniformly crumbly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice in heavy large saucepan. Let stand 30 minutes. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 3 minutes.

Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover with topping. Bake 35 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.