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Rhubarb Crisp

August 2, 2010

Oh, Rhubarb, you are quite possibly the most delicious pie filling in the history of the universe, but yet, so mysterious. You are tart and sweet. You carry wintry and summery overtones. Francesco thinks you’re German; I think you’re British. You taste like a fruit but look like a vegetable. (Side note: in 1947 a New York court decided that even though it’s a vegetable, since it was used as a fruit in the US, rhubarb could be classified as fruit to save importers on tax duties. Can you imagine if that argument actually worked in court? I use this fine imported wine as body wash, so let’s just classify it as that, mkay? But there you have it, rhubarb has been forced into a perpetual identity crisis over import duties).

And Rhubarb, despite your elegant, distinct flavor, you are vastly, undeniably under appreciated. So when I saw you at the farmer’s market last Saturday, I knew exactly what I had to do.

Enough catering to the Northern Hemisphere! Enough catering to cookie monster house guests! After six batches of chocolate crunch slice, one batch of chocolate chip cookies (coming soon), and enough cake to feed a small army, I wanted dessert on my own terms.

I made this a day in advance for a dinner party and it was much appreciated (i.e. wiped out). House guest, however, wouldn’t even try it. And you know what? That was totally fine with me.

rhubarb tossed with sugar, flour and cinnamon...ready to be baked

While rhubarb season is just picking up here, it’s on its way out in New England. So in case you didn’t freeze fresh rhubarb and have to wait 8 or so months to find it again, save this recipe. The crisp is truly crispy, and the fruit not overly sweet or sticky.  Strawberries are rhubarb’s best friend, so I’m sure no one would mind if you threw some in for good measure.


These proportions make about 8 servings, but they are by no means binding. I think the fruit to topping ratio is just right, but if you seriously love your streusel – and who doesn’t? – just double the measurements. Also, I used apples in here because I had two on their last legs. You can leave them out altogether (they don’t really add or take away anything), add strawberries, or substitute whatever fruit is dying slowly on your kitchen counter. This can be made a day ahead; you don’t have to store it in the fridge.


3 cups (about 2 small bunches) rhubarb, leaves removed and stalks chopped in 1/2″ (1 cm) chunks

2 apples, chopped (optional)

1 large dash cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons flour


1/2 cup granola, oats, crushed nuts or crushed cereal

3/4 cup  flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons (100 g) cold butter, chopped

a large pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC. In a large bowl, mix all the fruit ingredients together. In another bowl, mix all the topping ingredients, adding butter last. Use your hands to smoosh the butter into everything else until there are no more chunks and it’s relatively uniform.

Put the fruit mixture in a large casserole dish or individual ramekins. Squeeze the topping to form compact handfuls, then sprinkle over the fruit. (This keeps the crisp crispy.) Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until the rhubarb is really soft. You may want to cover the dish with tin foil halfway through if you notice it’s browning too quickly (I did).

Serve warm with ice cream for dessert, reheated with yogurt for breakfast, or out of the casserole dish at any time of day.

With house guest out of the way, dog saw his opening...

With house guest out of the way, dog saw his opening...

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