Friday, June 27, 2014

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp (gluten free!)

Need more rhubarb recipes? The round-up is here.

This dessert is such a lovely surprise, I wanted to give it a glammier name. Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Buttered Oats or Brown-Sugar Crisp with Strawberries and Rhubarb or Sweet Butter Nuts Summer Fruit Heaven. But what it is is a perfect fruit crisp that just so happens to be gluten-free! Okay. It doesn’t just so happen to be anything. We were charged with bringing dessert to a gluten-free household, and so I did a little research.

Don't you want to invite me over so that I can bring dessert and then proceed to stage an elaborate photo shoot with your pretty dishes? It should be noted that this is the same family whose daughter's bat mitzvah we recently hijacked with mandolin, ukelele, guitar, kalimba, and our heartfelt, if not entirely traditional, rendition of REM's You Are the Everything. (You're welcome, again, guys! We love you.)
To be clear, I love a dietary challenge of any type. I like an excuse to buy xanthan gum as much as the next person, and I like. . . what? The way that making something special exaggerates the way that cooking is already an act of caretaking. Of love.
My brother’s kids spent a week with us in April, right after one of them went gluten-free, and it was a daily adventure. “I just love that you made it for me!” was about all that could be said, and was, about the lumpy, misshapen excuse for pizza. Gluten-free waffles, on the other hand, were terrific, and I even kind of liked the beany aftertaste. (I am nothing if not a bean-loving caricature of myself.) Many cookies were made and enjoyed. And next time I will make this rich, buttery dessert.

The inspiration. We love you, Brookfield Farm.
Use whatever fruit comes into season, and just adjust the filling accordingly. 
Pretty much anything will need less sugar than the rhubarb does, unless you have access to those nice plump horrible slap-in-your-face gooseberries to which my (English) mother is partial. 
Cherries and apricots are a lovely combination (and I am reposting that classic crisp here), as are peaches and strawberries, nectarines and blueberries, and, when the leaves start whispering about autumn, blackberries and apples. The cornstarch can stay more or less constant—although you could add a little more or less if you sense that your fruit is a little juicier or not.
Happy summer, my darlings. xo

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
I started with this beautiful recipe over at The Minimalist Baker, and then added, oh, you know, more butter and sugar. And salt. And fruit. Also I added cornstarch to thicken the filling. Vary the fruits as you like.

For the topping:
1 cup oats (if gluten-free is your angle here, make sure to use oats labeled gluten-free)
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup almond meal (Purchased, or grind raw almonds in the food processor or blender; I like it to be rustic, with the skins still on, but go with your preference.)
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the filling:
3 cups sliced rhubarb
3 cups sliced strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch stirred into a slurry with a similar amount of water

Heat the oven to 350.

Stir together the dry topping ingredients, then add the butter and rub it all together with your fingers, lifting handfuls of the mixture and letting them fall rubbingly, until the butter is evenly distributed and the topping has turned pebbly. Pop this in the fridge while you make the filling.

Make the filling right in the dish (something 8 X 8 or 9 X 13 or in the middle will work—the dessert will be deeper or shallower accordingly). Toss the fruit with the sugar, then drizzle over the cornstarch slurry and use your hands to mix it all well.

Top the fruit with the crumble mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and caramelizing and the topping is as brown as it can be without burning.

Serve hot, warm, room-temperature, or cold, with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Favorites


Even though Ben is still slogging through another week of school, summer is really here. I say this not just because last night was the first night that I alternated complaining about the suffocating enervating heat with complaining about the horrible teeny bugs crawling all over me. Not just because of the fireflies and mint or because we eat dinner at 8 and it still feels plenty early or because we eat only cold things and take only cold showers. But because it looks and smells like summer, and when the thunderstorm finally crashed in late late, I felt that enlightening lifting of heat and mood, that wild flashing happiness. Summer! Plus, the baby animals are everywhere, big-eyed and trusting: bunnies, deer, squirrels, goldfinches. Yesterday a tiny chipmunk stood on its hind legs to look through the glass door at the cat, who went insane, chittering and clacking at him, and I teased, "You're going to get in trou-ble! Don't let your Mama see you talking to a pussycat." And not ten seconds later, a big chipmunk appeared on the wood pile, yelling and scolding, and the baby scampered off.

Meanwhile, I am sharing some perennial favorite summer recipes here. Because I know you want to eat cold things too.

Since originally publishing this chicken recipe, I have taken to often skipping the first marinade altogether, and simply salting the chicken as early in the day as is possible. But then do I have to call it "Single-Delicious Grilled Chicken"? 
Double-Delicious Grilled Chicken. I make this all summer, every summer. It's so good, and it's my favorite way to turn a giant plate of lettuce into a dinner party. You can make the dressing however you like: this past Sunday we had some friends over, and I had this vision of a kind of falafel-themed salad, so I made the chicken with lemon and lots of mint, then I added it to a giant bowlful of lettuce, cucumbers and falafel-seasoned fried chickpeas (just before they were done cooking, I added lots of coriander, cumin, paprika, and granulated garlic and they were insane). Heaps of parsley leaves too. And mint and feta. And tahini dressing, even though I claim to hate tahini. But it was so, so good. (I based it on this recipe, but used only 1/4 cup of water). I wish I'd taken a picture.

Cold Noodle Bowls. Someone requested this recipe. Was it you? It's another one that I make over and over every summer, with many variations. The ginger-scallion dressing here is a total favorite, but last night I made a variation on cold noodle bowls with brown-rice noodles, loads of steamed spinach, tofu strips, and a delicious peanut dressing. Oh, wait, basically it was noodles and tofu with Japanese Restaurant Spinach.  I added lime juice, garlic, and ginger to the dressing, and also a spoonful of sambal oelek (sriracha would be good too). So perfect for the hot end of a hot day. (I couldn't help noticing that I was the only person who helped myself to a nice big spoonful of pickled turnips to crunch up the bowl a little. Losers.)

If you wanted to share any summery thoughts, I'd love that so much. Recipes, outings, books, games, anything.


Friday, June 06, 2014

The Foragers

Clockwise from top left: bitter, slimy cooked jewelweed; mild, tasty cooked violet leaves; pungent raw salad with garlic mustard, violet leaves, violets, sorrel, dandelion greens, and a single four-leaf clover; tangy, stringy cooked curly dock. And in the middle? A bamboo shoot!
I taped this little commentary for our NPR station. I am such a proselytizing born-again forager, my God. Because it is a green, green world right now, at least here in the Northeast, and I cannot recommend enough that you try figuring out how much of that green you can actually eat! Because it might be a lot. It turns out that all kinds of plants are edible, especially right now, when they're still young and tender. Not just the dandelions, which I've written about, or the purslane, which won't be up for another month. But, oh, burdock and jewel weed and and violet leaves. Milkweed shoots and daylily buds and cattails. Mushrooms, if you're careful. 
We made garlic-mustard pesto, but you can make pesto with any tasty greens! I tend to use two packed cups of greens with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or almonds, and plenty of salt and parmesan.
Birdy and I got these books out of the library.

Backyard Foraging, by Ellen Zachos is probably our favorite. But Northeast Foraging by Leda Meredith and Foraging New England by Tom Seymour are great too, as is another book, not pictured here: Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas.

Birdy arranged these wild and semi-wild garnishes to jazz up a simple bowl-of-pinto-beans dinner. Clockwise from left: mint, sheep sorrel, violets, lemon balm, and a mix of Queen Ann's Lace roots (aka wild carrots) and chives. 
But it's not just the food. It's not. And it's not just the dopamine I mention in the radio piece. Or the risk, which I kind of love. It's also the time. 
wild thing
Sorry for all the narcissistic linking, but (relatedly) I have this up today too, in the Times. I am full of opinions, it seems. Enjoy your weekend, my darlings. xo
We usually only harvest oyster mushrooms in the fall, but the weird weather sent out a spring crop. Here they are, sauteed, with fried eggs with sizzling vinegar. The best meal I ever ate.