Here's our rhubarb.
What's all that grey fluffy stuff? Why, it's blown-in insulation. Blown-in insulation that has somehow blown out and filled my garden, or what's left of it. Sigh.
|Don't try to freeze me! I am super-insulated.|
Have you ever done anything like insulate your house? It is just such a grown-up thing to do that I can't quite wrap my head around it. "We're spending thousands of dollars," I complained to Michael. "And there is no air travel involved." I know it's smart, it's eco-groovy, it's money we'll recoup in x number of years, and we'll save x amount of energy, have x fewer ice dams, etc, and that's great. I was glad to do it. But the fun factor is perilously low. Save up for months and months so you can treat yourself to a noisy hose full of newspaper pulp! A noisy hose manned by 5 noisy young men over the course of 2, no actually 3, well I guess it's really going to be 4 days, but not 5 days, as long as you can do the paperwork at 5:15 on Friday. No, 5:15 A.M.--we have to get to Holyoke by 6. Kill me.
Of course, I loved the kids desperately--the kids who were insulating our house. I loved the way they took every opportunity to use the expression "blow your house," catching each other's eye and smirking because of course it was going over my head because, ew, I'm like 100 years past my oral-sex prime, unless my teeth have already fallen out, and then, well, maybe they're intrigued. I loved eavesdropping on their conversations ("And she was like, man, right? And I was like, that's some serious shit." ) which was easy, given the volume at which they tended to speak, and I loved listening to them sing along to the radio. If it sounds like I'm being facetious, I'm not. I hated the noise, noise, noise, noise of the actual work--the banging and sawing and drilling and prying and the hose, which was like a writhing, screaming, cellulose-spitting dragon. I hated the mess, the disruption, the pictures falling off the wall, the frightened cat, the ladder planted first on my herbs and then on my flowers, the expense, the holes cut into the wall and ceiling, and the fact of people working in my house, which gives me the feeling that I'm hosting the worst party ever! It was so boring and difficult, and all she served was coffee and donuts! But I loved the kids, and I couldn't stop tending to and fretting over them, and trying to make sure that they loved me best of all the boring middle-aged ladies who are constantly fretting over and tending to them. Which, needless to say, I do with the grace and smoothness of Edward Scissorhands. Those poor guys. One of them fell down the stairs with a vacuum cleaner, and I made him sit on the floor and hold my hand until I was convinced that he was okay and that I wasn't having a heart attack. And I actually overheard them gossiping about my peonies. "What are those, roses? The pink ones? They're huge! They're seriously nice, right? I told my ma about them."
Wait, why am I telling you this? Oh right! The rhubarb. Not sure how it would fare, buried in insulation, I decided to pick a bunch of it and make a crumble. And here is the crumble. Did you make the cherry-apricot crumble last year? Well, this is similar, only it's rhubarb and strawberries, and, therefore, it will make your jaw ache, in a good way, just thinking about it. The filling is perfect--tangy and rosy, sweet and fragrant and just barely vanilla-scented--and the topping is absolutely magnificent in its crunchy, buttery, brown-sugary way. You can't not like this. Plus, with your new-found gratitude on account of, phew, the rapture not occurring, you'll love it all the more.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Active time: 25 minutes; total time: 1 hour
Feel free to make this with 6 cups of rhubarb and no berries, which is my preference, although I'm not sure it's widely shared. "That's great," Michael said, as I was prepping the strawberries. He said, "I'm sure lots more of your readers will make it because of the berries," thereby offending me and my devotion to rhubarb. Although it is really, really, really good this way too.
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 stick salted butter, very slightly softened and cut into 12 pieces
4 cups of rhubarb sliced into half-inch pieces (Just over a pound)
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup flour
Heat the oven to 400. To make the topping, use a fork to mix the flour, brown sugar, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Now add the butter, and toss to coat it with the flour-sugar mixture, then take off your rings and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry mixture. This is a messy but not unpleasant job: you’ll be lifting handfuls of the mixture up out of the bowl, then gently letting it fall through your fingertips as you rub it lightly together. Eventually, you’ll have a bowl of what looks like damp, clumpy sand: squeeze fistfuls of this topping and then crumble them lightly so you end up with a bowlful of pebbly clumps of varying sizes. Put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
Toss the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl with the vanilla extract, sugar, and flour, then pour it all into a glass or ceramic baking dish—something larger than a pie plate but not quite as large as a lasagna pan. There will be some flour and sugar on top that looks like it’s not joining the party, but don’t worry about it. Top the fruit evenly with the crumble and bake in the middle of the oven (put a baking sheet underneath if bubbling-over looks likely) for 35-45 minutes, until the crumble is deep brown and the fruit is bubbling up at the sides. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Eat leftovers cold for breakfast.
|These stalks were s ginormous that 3 of them yielded 4 cups sliced. Don't you love their scarlet party dresses?|
|Tell me your jaw isn't aching looking at this picture.|
|Ben, slicing strawberries with our strawberry slicer. More on this soon.|
|The filling, ready to be stirred up.|
|And ready to be topped.|
|And here it is, baked. We were with my parents over the weekend, and my mum made a rhubarb-apple crumble with oats in the topping, and it was ridiculous, it was so good. Ellie, my English cousin, went so far as to call it "brilliant," which it was.|
|Oh, that really is lovely.|
|I couldn't resist sharing Ben's rhubarb expression.|
|Strawberry's hiding so we won't make a crumble out of him.|