Monday, May 23, 2011

Strawberry-rhubarb Crumble

Here's our rhubarb.

Don't try to freeze me! I am super-insulated.
 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.

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
Serves 8
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.

For topping:
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

For filling:
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.

Like so.
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.


  1. Oh my gosh! I love Ben's gorgeous hair! he's so grown up.
    I'll try this recipe, Catherine. I need to catch up with your blog posts. I haven't stopped by for a long time, but I've missed you. I hope it's Springtime where you live. It hasn't come to Utah yet...

  2. Anonymous1:35 PM

    We just made your "old" recipe (all rhubarb, no berries) last week. And just as it finished baking, the power went out, so we ended up having warm rhubarb crumble FOR DINNER! What a treat! Congratulations on the insulation, you grown-up.

  3. We did that insulation thing in our unusable attic, I mean, for DULLNESS and INVISIBILITY, few other household projects compare. And then we had little bits of newspaper drifting down out of ceiling lights for awhile.

    My favorite part was seeing them go through the seriously tiny opening to the attic. It seemed like it could NOT be done: no adult male could fit through that little access panel. And yet, one by one, up they went! Schloop! Schloop! Schloop!

  4. Swistle, "DULLNESS and INVISIBILITY" just made me laugh out loud. Welcome back, Yamile!

  5. I had to forward this to my husband because (1) rhubarb is my favorite, and I am hoping he'll get the hint about my birthday. Which he doesn't need to, since I will probably not-subtly suggest he make me rhubarb pie or rhubarb crumble 100 times in the next 2 weeks anyway. And (2) because he is constantly opining that insulating should be our next household project and I sulkily keep suggesting other, more sexy options, like beach vacation or new furniture or ROTH IRAs. Because insulation-- just not sexy. Blowing innuendo aside.

  6. We had our house "blown" a few years ago. I was never able to make those holes in the wall blend into the rest of the wall. It's almost as exciting as putting on a new roof. Not quite, but close.

  7. Just made this and it's EXCELLENT! Love love love this recipe! Thank you!

  8. I did make the cherry apricot crumble last year, and I loved every bit of it, except for pitting the cherries with a makeshift paperclip pitter. I swear it looked so much easier in the videos I googled!

    I adore rhubarb and have a nice little patch in our yard. I just cut off the flowering stalk which is its own category of out-of-this-world funky flowers! I found it struggling to reach light under the forsythia bush which had nearly smothered it. Who knows how long it survived there without sun which gave me a new respect for this dear plant.

    Bonus - organic strawberries were on sale today at my co-op!! I am making this tomorrow! Can't wait!

  9. I had to read this twice because the first time I thought you were talking about YOUR kids and I was a little confused by Ben and Birdy discussing oral sex and saying "serious shit" and you not having a hissy fit ... and then I realized that we are so old that the workers were the kids ... sigh. We are having our siding replaced at the moment so I can completely emphasize with spending thousands and getting zero air travel.

  10. Hooray for rhubarb! I was just blathering away to someone today about rhubarb, and how my great-grandparents brought our family's rhubarb starter out from North Dakota. I suspect she wasn't duly impressed. Maybe I should have talked to her about insulation...

    Anyway, thanks for the crumble recipe. I'll be making it this week!

  11. Is rhubarb just something people grow at home, because I've never seen rhubarb for sale. Not once. I'm way in the South, so maybe that's it?

    I know exactly what you mean about insulation. We had to put a new roof on our house, which took actually years of saving. And they were done in one day! I didn't even get to grumble about the incessant hammering or anything! Nothing to show for all that money. And considering that I spend the majority of my time not looking at roofs, I don't even remember that I have a new one. Good job on being so eco-friendly, though. I wish you very low utility bills this winter.

  12. One word: mouthgasm. This stuff is amazing!!!!

  13. melissa10:29 PM

    Elizabeth -- I thought the same thing about Ben and Birdy talking about oral sex. And for a second I felt a little bad about myself, because if Catherine Newman is cool with her kids talking about that, there must be something wrong with ME (clearly, that would be the only explanation!). Ah, yes, on the re-read, it all made sense. I'm OK after all. Maybe I'll even try rhubarb, though maybe just a half recipe to start...

  14. I'm forwarding this to my husband, because he's one of those boys--OK, he's the middle aged guy who signs those boys' paychecks, but he's probably been making jokes about blowing peoples' houses for years and I never knew it. Anyway, I'm sure he has no idea how stupefyingly boring his work is to the homeowner, since he can go all absolutely rapturous about air barriers and heat recovery ventilation. Also, he's a big fan of baking crisps and crumbles and pandowdies and things of the fruit-under-sugar-and-dough nature (his philosophy on the topic, is "double the good stuff" as in twice as much oatmeal/flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture as the recipe calls for).

  15. one_more_amy11:06 PM

    Ugh, we had insulation put in last December, and now have to have the house painted to cover the patched holes that are all over the outside of the house. On a brighter note, the rhubarb is ready to be picked and baked into a crumble. Thanks for the recipe!

  16. made this last night, did not have enough strawberries so I added raspberries also. So my Strawberry-Raspberry-Rhubarb Crumble was delish! A tad too sweet for the fruit but I must have the only 8yr old who said he didn't like the crumble. What? He only ate the fruit and left the little bit of crumble that he had. unbelievable. my work verification is tragianc - yes it is tragic.

  17. Howdy there Catherine! I think I shall try this strawberry rhubarb crumble. Sounds so yummy. As for the boys blowing your house (insert meaningful pause) I'm glad you took care of them (another meaningful pause). Are you on twitter? I bet your daily musings are hilarious.

  18. Anonymous10:27 PM

    I remember the pictures of your peonies from last year--they're some serious shit. (I can't comment from work anymore, but I'm still here and loving all of it--Ben's blog is fantastic!) --Cathy K

  19. We had hardwood put in last fall, and the young guys who put it in were the best. Not to mention jokes about hardwood. Or how they moved my dresser, took out the drawers, and on top was my panty drawer. Hardwood and panties. Good times!

  20. The sexual innuendos and comments about roof work reminded me of my favorite part of a grueling 2 day medical board examination taken w/ my whole class (gosh, 20 years ago this coming year). Horrified pause. ANYWAY - we were in the top floor of the student union, and during the exam there were workers ROOFING above us. The noise was incredible. We complained to the exam proctor, a dowdy older women (really, not just that we were young then!), and she complained to them several times. The noise continued. Finally, she said to us (again, we are all dead quiet, sweating over the exam), "That's it. I'm going up there again and if they don't stop I'm going to jerk them off!" I am fairly sure she had no idea why the entire room burst out laughing.

  21. Anonymous8:11 AM

    Such a pretty baking dish, Catherine. I made this the very day you posted the recipe. Not having a garden, I had to run to the store and make them search the back for rhubarb, which they finally found. My husband said his first spoonful was one of the forty best bites of food in his life. Not sure how he arrived at that number, but we ended up having it for dinner. There was no power outage to excuse this, but between the rhubarb, strawberries, and all the calcium in vanilla ice cream I have opted not to feel guilty.

  22. Made this last night, it IS amazing..and cold for breakfast is even better! Thanks! Your writing made me laugh so much, we have work on the hosue always and forever- it so damn old- and I love the note about not getting any travel out of the money, I can completely agree!! Much less fun, and you can't even have people over and get excited about this kind of repair, like "hey, come see my new water line!" OY!!

  23. Nikki6:58 PM

    Catherine, we spent a few Caribbean vacations worth of money on vinyl siding last year. Yes, we paid good money for a PLASTIC house. It felt so wrong, considering I'm a total hippie. So I make strawberry rhubarb crumble pretty often in the Spring/Summer but now that my fav has posted a recipe I can't wait to try it! It's a little different from mine (no cornstarch). And yes, my jaw ached as soon as I read the title of this blog...

  24. miryboo3:15 PM

    I'm glad I'm not the only one confused over the kids reference- I was just going to write it off to my "prego brain". I make your rhubarb crumb bars and LOVE them. I made those last month. But this week I had a hard time finding rhubarb- until the farmer's market this morning!! But maybe I should grow my own... Any tips?!

  25. made this for a dinner party tonight - huge hit! Thanks for another great recipe!

  26. So I made this using half rhubarb and half tart cherries, threw a little almond extract into the filling (1/2 tsp-ish? about that much) and mixed some oatmeal in with the crumble part (I dunno, 1/2 cup-ish?)and it. was. amazing.

  27. Looks fabulously delicious! We *did* make the crumble last year. Made it again this year with peaches, apricots and nectarines. So, so good.