Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Veggie Might: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Nostalgia, Co-opted

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian.

For the last few days, I’ve been in a sweet, tangy, gooey haze of nostalgia created both in my imagination and in my kitchen. Just sweet enough, not too rich, it’s been delicious.

Everyone I know has a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, or second-cousin Shirley who made the best strawberry-rhubarb pie/cobbler. Except me. Sort of.

A couple weeks ago, on my Lehigh Valley excursion, I bought my first rhubarb. I’ve never used it before, and to my knowledge, never had it at home. I was excited to try it. When I got my stalks home, I tried a piece raw. It reminded me of a Granny Smith apple. But I decided to trust what I’d heard and cook it with something sweet.

My first exposure to rhubarb was in a cobbler at an NYC restaurant where I used to work. It was there I learned that rhubarb is commonly paired with strawberries and sugar because of its natural tartness. Everyone, co-workers and customers, had a story: “Oh my aunt made the best rhubarb pie. My mother’s strawberry-rhubarb cobbler was the best you’ve ever tasted.”

Maybe, I would think, but I’d never had it before. I didn’t even know what rhubarb looked like. To my knowledge, no one in my past ever baked with rhubarb. My finicky dessert issues, for once, were not to blame for my culinary cluelessness.

Then I called my mom. Apparently my Grandma C made the most amazing strawberry-rhubarb pie ever. Dad got on the phone and confirmed Mom’s claim. He went on: his grandma (who I never met), plus Great-Grandma (Mom’s grandma, who I knew well) made great rhubarb pies too.

How did I miss all these pies? I usually remember rejecting foods out of hand; I feel guilty about it. Well, this recipe made up for lost time.My friend, who ate it, called me by my full name in exclamation. “Leigh Angel, I like your cobbler!”

Crumble, to be exact. This recipe developed via a culinary game of telephone, much like recipes passed down through the generations. Everyone makes a tweak and sends it on. I got it from the delightful blog, everybody likes sandwiches, who got it from Smitten Kitchen, who got it from Nigella.

The secret to this recipe, according to Nigella and SK, is the baking soda. It converts a standard crisp topping into a lighter, crumbier topping, without upping the amount of butter. Essentially, you get more delicious warm sugary, buttery bang for your buck. As a matter of fact, the els recipe reduced SK’s butter amount, and I reduced hers a bit more.

This crumble is a pretty dang easy and healthy dessert for one so delicious. I used these cute little ramekins instead of a casserole dish, but I overfilled them—only getting five servings and thanking SK for recommending foil to line my baking sheet. It still came in at under 300 calories and 8g fat per serving. If I'd used a casserole dish, I would have gotten six servings out of the recipe.

I used organic strawberries from the farmers’ market, which pushed up the price a bit. If you find cheaper fruit, the cost will go way down. But let me tell you, these berries were better than any from the grocery store.

If my parents were nearby, I would hope they would like this as much as Grandma C’s (or Great-Grandma’s or Grandma F’s). Or at least enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Serves 5
Adapted from many places, but Everybody Likes Sandwiches most recently.

5 stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1” pieces
1 scant qt. strawberries, quartered (about 1 lb)
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of allspice

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1/4 c melted butter (I used Earth Balance vegan margarine.)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) (If making individual crumbles, mix the following in a medium bowl. If using a casserole, mix directly in baking dish.) Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg. Add lemon juice. Stir thoroughly.

3) In another bowl, combine all topping ingredients. Stir until you get some clumps.

4) Sprinkle topping with your hands evenly over the fruit.

5) Bake for 40-50 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit is saucy.

6) Allow to cool and serve with ice cream/nondairy frozen dessert of your choice. Maybe you’ll cry a little from happiness and nostalgia. It’s okay. It happens.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
292 calories, 9g fat, $1.62

5 stalks rhubarb: 55 calories, 0g fat, $2.17
3 cups strawberries: 150 calories, 0g fat, $4.50
juice + zest of one lemon: 12 calories, 0g fat, $0.25
1/4 cup + 3 tbsp granulated sugar: 366 calories, 0g fat, $.25
3 tbsp cornstarch: 87.8 calories, 0g fat, $.17
pinch of allspice: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 cup flour: 337.5 calories, 1g fat, $.21
1 tsp baking powder, negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tbsp brown sugar: 52 calories, 0g fat, $.04
1/4 c melted butter: 400 calories, 44g fat, $.48
TOTALS: 1460.3 calories, 45g fat, $8.11
PER SERVING (TOTALS/5): 292 calories, 9g fat, $1.62


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