Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rite of Spring: My Mamma's Rhubarb Crisp

With a shout out and Happy Birthday to Igor Stravinsky (because yes, I AM a music nerd like that), I thought I'd post the quintessential "Rite of Spring" recipe from the Tofu Mom household... My Mamma's Rhubarb Crisp.

As an additional history note, rhubarb was first cultivated in China, though Russia was one of the first countries to use the plant's stalks, cooked with sweetener, as a dessert item. Perhaps Igor enjoyed rhubarb crisp as he composed?

OK, history lesson aside, this recipe has been a family favorite since long before I could hold a kitchen knife, and it's one of those things I assumed everyone had their own variation on.

I remember the anticipation every spring as we waited for the first rhubarb stalks to appear, and soon after, this dessert would grace the supper table. I didn't realize how dissatisfied the rest of the world was with their rhubarb recipes though, until I made this as an adult, and friends started begging for this recipe, saying it was "perfect".

I have no idea where my Mom got the recipe, but I do know it's really simple and really good. And "accidentally" vegan too! You need to try it. Even people who didn't think they like rhubarb have become converts.

Long ago, foolishly thinking I might "improve" on a classic, I searched the Interwebs for a "better" rhubarb crisp recipe. I was so mistaken! And I discovered many others in search of the perfect recipe as well... Recipe websites and cooking-whatever-dot-com had selection after selection of seemingly great-sounding recipes for rhubarb this and rhubarb that - accompanied by tons and tons of complaints from the cooking public because said recipes were unsatisfactory: too runny, too sweet, too tangy, too mushy, too dry, too complicated, too many ingredients, too everything...

And I tend to agree. Simple is better. I don't like my rhubarb mucked up with lime or coconut or even strawberries. I don't like nuts or molasses or other funky ingredients in the topping. I don't like it too runny or to dry. If you're anything like me (and apparently lots of other rhubarb-purists) , this will be the perfect dessert for you! If you want to add cinnamon or cherries or celery, that's up to you...

My Mamma's Perfect Rhubarb Crisp

4 - 5 cups diced rhubarb (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. and 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup water
1 - 2 drops vanilla

1/2 cup (1 cube) margarine
1 cup flour (whole wheat is OK here, though makes it a bit heavier)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add water and cook over med high, stirring with wire whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens. Don't let it splatter!

In medium bowl, cut margarine into flour with pastry blender or fork, until blended. Add sugar and oats. Mix well. Put half the topping in a 2 quart baking dish. (I have no idea how big this is, just a flat baking dish that looks like everything will fit).

Add diced rhubarb and pour sauce over. Add rest of topping. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. (Cover with foil if topping gets too brown. If the pan is very full, it will bubble over and make a mess in your oven. Just sayin'...).

Enjoy. And Happy Summer (not spring any more, I guess, huh?!).


♥ Lindsay ♥ said...

I L O V E just about any type of fruit crisp, though I especially adore a rhubarb one! This looks delectable. I will have to give it a go! Thanks for sharing :)

dj said...

Makes me want to run out and buy rhubarb - and town's 25 miles away! (For the next 30 days or so anyway)

Catherine said...

Rhubarb crisp is the BEST, although I must admit, I like to add strawberries or blueberries to mine. :)

Bethany said...

I'll have to try this, looks amazing. I also hate it when other fruit tries to get involved with my rhubarb.

Nice meeting you on Sunday! The bake sale was successful, but really tiring. today is my day to be a slacker and recover.

Al said...

That looks fantastic. My mom had a non-vegan recipe that she easily veganised for us and brought some the last time they visited. It evoked in me the memories of every single positive experience of my childhood.