Is there any food that is as magically transformed by the oven as rhubarb? Perhaps you are more impressed by what the oven can do to meats, which can go from completely raw to completely blackened or fall-off-the-bone delicious in this magical box. But though I have never tried raw chicken, I daresay its flavor is not as transformed as that of rhubarb when it enters the oven.
Rhubarb is a fruit (is it a fruit?) I had not even heard of until my college days in the Midwest. In a glass case in the only dining hall on campus, rhubarb pie was one of the constant offerings. And yet, until my last few weeks on campus, I did not realize rhubarb was the name of an actual ingredient in the pie. Rhubarb, I thought, must be the name of the stocky old grandmother who had invented this pie stuffed with some sort of grayish-pink filling. And while I’m not sure what I thought the filling was made of, I do know that my first taste of rhubarb did not send me running to that glass case for a slice of pie.
Why? Because my first taste of rhubarb was raw, a small bite I took as I was dicing it for a strawberry rhubarb pie that a friend had requested for his birthday dessert. I panicked. I thought I must have bought a bad bunch. Did I accidentally pick up some new genetically modified red celery? Surely this wasn’t something people would not only want to have in their desserts, but enjoy so much as to request it for their birthday. A few Google searches later, I was assured that this rhubarb was indeed supposed to have a sour, almost astringent taste before it is cooked, and I was able to put my pie in the oven without too much alarm. Though I’ll admit, I upped the strawberry to rhubarb ratio, for I still did not have faith in rhubarb. And then, the magic happened. What I removed from the oven was bubbling pie that smelled and tasted sweet but not too sweet–the rhubarb a perfect complement to the strawberries.
And while it’s no multi-tiered birthday cake, putting together a pie from scratch is still no quick task, so, I present you with an everyday dessert that will have you satisfying your rhubarb craving in no time.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 8-16 bars
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup flour
1/3 cup (heaping) light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon (heaping) salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup rhubarb, diced
1 cup strawberry, diced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8 by 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix well. If the mixture looks too moist, add more flour. Take half of this mixture and press it into the bottom of the pan.
Combine the strawberry and rhubarb. Sprinkle half of this mixture on top of the oats in the pan. Sprinkle the cornstarch over this mixture, and then the lemon juice. Then sprinkle with half of the sugar.
Sprinkle the remaining strawberry and rhubarb in the pan, and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the fruit. Finally, sprinkle the remaining oat mixture in the pan.
Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the oats look toasted and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from the oven, allow the bars to cool completely, and cut into bars (anywhere from 8 to 16). I suggest eating this warm, and storing any remaining bars in an airtight container in the fridge, or in your belly.