Prep Time:15 minutes |
Cook Time:40 minutes
adapted from Marion Cunningham and Sharon Kramis
Rhubarb fascinates me. It’s one of those ingredients that comes but once a year, and the first thing everyone learns about it is that the leaves can be toxic, making it seem seductive and slightly dangerous at the same time. I’ve heard people say that dipping stalks straight from the garden into sugar was their ultimate childhood treat. And I’ve heard the words “rhubarb spinach asparagus” over and over in my head for years.
Let me explain that last one. When I was about 13, I was in a TV commercial for Hamburger Helper. As my fake happy family and I sat at the dinner table, the director told us to smile, laugh, and say “rhubarb spinach asparagus” over and over so that no one could read our lips while the voiceover was playing. For eight hours I said, “rhubarb spinach asparagus, rhubarb spinach asparagus” into the camera and the words have been on endless loop in my brain ever since, especially when rhubarb is in season.
Happily, this recipe is going to be on continuous loop in my kitchen from now on. It was inspired by fellow cook Sara Deseran, who adapted it from a recipe called Willie’s Crisp that Marion Cunningham, the late great cookbook author, got from her friend Sharon Kramis. Cunningham called this a benchmark recipe because it “is the only crisp I’ve ever had that is actually crisp.” She made it with peaches and berries, Sara made it with rhubarb, and I added strawberries and raspberries to mine (and used less sugar in the fruit mixture than the original). The thing that matters is to use enough fruit to fill an 8-inch square baking pan.
Once rhubarb season ends, I’ll make this with cherries and apricots and peaches and plums and apples and blackberries and anything, because it’s the topping that sets it apart. It’s like a cross between a cobbler and a crisp — a crispy crisp that’s not your typical crisp but might be the best crisp I’ve ever had. Try reading my lips while I say that!
3 to 4 cups sliced rhubarb (from 6 to 9 stalks)*
1 basket strawberries, sliced
1 basket raspberries
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
1 stick butter, melted
vanilla ice cream, of course
Preheat oven to 375°. Put fruit in an ungreased 8-inch square glass or metal baking pan (you should have 5 to 6 cups total; freeze any extra). Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons sugar over the fruit and, with your hands or a spoon, toss until the fruit is evenly coated with flour and sugar.
In a bowl with a fork, stir together the 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar with the baking powder and salt. Pour in the beaten egg and stir together with the fork until it looks shaggy and moist and is well combined. Scatter the topping over the fruit in the pan, then drizzle with the melted butter. Put right into the oven (Marion says if it sits, the topping won’t get as crisp) and bake until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes — if you can wait that long — then serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
* rhubarb stalks vary wildly in size (and baskets of strawberries and raspberries can vary in size, too); if you have extra, freeze the fruit and use it another time in this more traditional crisp