Rhubarb Time: Locavore Crisp
I was given a nice bunch of rhubarb from the guys at Green St. Cafe. It grew in their garden in Easthampton. The stalks were nice and fat. At the restaurant, they’re serving rhubarb in a sauce over biscuits studded with crystalized ginger.
Rhubarb grows wild and is a perennial. You might have some in the backyard. If you come across it, pull rather than cut at the stem. If you cut at the stem, it might get infected with fungus. Watch out for leaves….not so good for you.
Rhubarb is in season now and will be for another couple of weeks, hopefully until the strawberries are up. The combination is a classic since the sweetness of next week’s strawberries tempers the tart, tangy, sometimes ornery rhubarb, but the strawberries are not really necessary. Rhubarb has such an unusual, almost citrus flavor; it is great on its own and worth putting up for winter.
This recipe for rhubarb isn’t the classic strawberry-rhubarb pie and it isn’t a sauce in a fancy restaurant. It is a locavore version of the New England Crisp, the secret weapon of Yankee homemakers for generations. Throw it together just before dinner, seduce your guests with the aroma of baking fruit, and serve hot for dessert. Ice cream with that? Raw cream from the cows in Ashfield?
Rhubarb crisp is where local ingredients can really shine. The recipe for all crisps is merely fruit that cooks in the oven with a “crumble” on top consisting of flour, sugar, oats, and butter—lots of it. (Some add nuts, but they are really unnecessary—and according to Martha Stewart, oats are NOT helpful since they get soggy.)
Rhubarb is everywhere, but flour can be local also. If, instead of plain white flour from the store via the midwest, you use local whole wheat berries and grind them yourself, you will get a nice crisp, since the flour will have fiber in the form of bran and germ. Merely buy some wheat berries from the co-op or at Atkins, have your baker run it through the stone grinder asking him or her to grind it rough, and be nice since you’re not really paying for this.
Then go home and make the recipe. If you want to skip the grinding step, merely purchase stone ground soft white winter wheat, grown by Four Star in Northfield. It is sold on the farm or at the aforementioned stores, if they have not yet run out. If you insist on nuts, throw in some local chestnuts (purchased last fall and frozen) that are roasted and then chopped and browned in a dry pan.
If you say “hey, hey, sugar is not local, hello!” then go ahead and use honey. You may end up with a unique texture unlike the traditional New England crisp, but it will be completely local.
Locavore Rhubarb Crisp
Preheat oven to 425 – 450 depending on your oven (burning not an option)
5 T butter, chilled
5 C rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces, remove strings if it is tough rhubarb
1/4 C white sugar (or honey)
3/4 C whole wheatberries ground rough or regular flour
2 T chestnuts roasted, coarsley chopped and browned (optional)
Slather a layer of rhubarb on the bottom of a baking dish. With two knives, using an old pastry technique, mix the butter with the flour.
When the butter and flour matter are somewhat but not completely mixed, add the sugar to the crumble, and nuts if you have them
Spread the crumble over the top of the rhubarb layer.
Put in a 425-450 oven
Pull out of oven 45 minutes later
Enjoy Rhubarb Crisp with local ice cream (Bruce Allard) or raw cream (SideHill Farm)
More recipes at www.valleylocavore.com