Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

May 19, 2011 at 12:57 am 56 comments

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

So I’m officially a college sophomore. Could my freshman year have gone by any faster?

After classes ended, I headed up to Maine to spend a week with my boyfriend I- and his family in the pine tree state. My last trip was full of snow and bluster, but this time, sunlight broke through the morning fog and the coastline couldn’t be bluer. Maine is beautiful in the spring – all crabapple blossoms and forsythia flowers. It makes you want to grab plastic sunglasses, tumble through grassy fields, and buy fish and chips from the roadside seafood shack.

The food in Maine is good. My theory is that the town is so small, your business has to be solid or people won’t come back. In the mornings I ate eggs, sunny-side up, blueberry pancakes, home fries and chewy bacon. I tried a sweet potato and carnitas burrito (mind-blowing) and a triple-decker crab BLT. For dessert, we gorged on soft-serve hot fudge sundaes.

The food at I-’s home was delicious too. My first night there, I practically inhaled my dinner. It was such a comfort to eat a hot, home-cooked meal that didn’t come out of a can or a microwave. For dessert, I-’s mother gave me a spoonful of strawberry rhubarb crisp and a generous scoop of ice cream.

“By the way,” she added casually, “the rhubarb is from the garden.”

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I can count the number of times I’ve eaten rhubarb on one hand. I know it’s not an uncommon ingredient, but we don’t grow it, and my family generally passes it as overpriced in the grocery store. Rhubarb is a luxury for me, something that elicits oohs and ahhs. “Will you make it again with me?” I asked.

I-’s family has made this crisp for years. I-’s mother pulled a card from a tightly packed box of recipes. His parents cut the recipe out of a newspaper 30 years ago – the paper is yellow and faded, and they can’t remember which paper it came from anymore. The clipping is full of cross-outs, changes and substitutions as they made the recipe their own over the years. I told them that made it officially theirs.

She cut a bunch of rhubarb from the plant outside. They sat on the counter, striped red and pink and cream, billowing into dark green leaves. I couldn’t believe how vivid and thick the stalks grew. Then I tried fresh rhubarb for the first time. I bit off an end, gnawing down the fibers, and slowly chewing. It was definitely more bitter and stringy than I’d expected, but I dipped the end into sugar and discovered tangy bliss. I-’s mother peeled off the rhubarb skins, like glossy ribbon on a birthday present.

We tossed the rhubarb chunks and strawberry halves into a bowl, and let them macerate in sugar and their own juices.

I-'s Family Recipe Box
Rhubarb Skins

After dinner, I made the topping with I-’s father. He popped the butter in the microwave until it was just shy of melty. I used my fingers to rub it into the almonds, oats, and flour. Together, we tumbled the fruit into a pan, blanketed it in crumble, and slid the dish into the warm oven. “It’s that easy!” he said, smiling at me.

As the fruit bubbled and I walked up the stairs, I realized how much I’d missed family time in the kitchen. It’s not just about good food, though I ached for that too. I missed the intimacy of standing side by side at the counter, slicing potatoes and whisking salad dressing. I haven’t danced around my parents in so long, the three of us weaving among each other to grab pots and pans in our too-small kitchen. I suddenly wanted to sit at the dinner table after a long meal, listening to water run while my mother filled the dishwasher, a sleeping dog against my toes.

In my year away, I’d started to forget that family is the smell of simmering beef broth, and that home is the warmth of hot oven air. I called my mom, dad, and grandma that night. As much as I loved Maine and half wanted to stay forever, deep down I also wanted to see my family.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I’m home at last. I already long for the bustle of Boston. Sometimes I get bored without the rush of classes, work, and extracurriculars. I miss my friends, my roommate, and especially I-.

But Seattle is sunny and even greener than I remembered. I love the familiar murmur of rain on the roof at night, the way the towering trees nestle around our house. When I came home my mother showed me around the yard, pointing out where the groundcover had spread and the plants that had burgeoned forth.

She led me to the vegetable garden, dotted with slender green stems and tiny leaves. I saw the apple trees, lush and fragrant with blossoms – I can’t wait to see the branches bowed over with ripe fruit. But most hopeful of all? Our strawberry plants, which have seriously flourished, carpeting the entire ground.

They make me crave rhubarb.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
An I- Family Original
Makes a 9×9″ pan

Crisp Topping
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup oatmeal

Fruit Filling
6 stalks rhubarb
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and almonds. Mix the softened, room temperature butter into the flour mixture with a fork or with your fingers until crumbly.

Peel off outer skin of rhubarb and cut off the ends. Cut stalks in one-inch pieces, enough to make three cupfuls. Hull the berries, cut in half. Toss fruit together with the sugar and flour until evenly coated. Place the fruit in a 9×9″ baking dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for 1 hour, or until bubbly, brown and crisp.

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Entry filed under: Breakfast/Brunch, Other Treats, Pies/Tarts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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56 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Darilyn  |  May 19, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Love the recipe and welcome home to the Pacific Northwest.

    Reply
  • 2. Jennifer  |  May 19, 2011 at 1:35 am

    My folks used to make strawberry rhubarb pie and my dad occasionally grew rhubarb. I hated the stuff. But this recipe makes me want to try it again, 20 years later, and see if my grown-up tongue enjoys it this time around.

    Reply
  • 3. Sophie  |  May 19, 2011 at 2:46 am

    I think every family has their own crumble (or crisp) recipe, ours is rhubarb and apple, and now I have a serious craving after reading your post! Yum.

    Reply
  • 4. Fired Up Cooking SA  |  May 19, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Your photos are just stunning! Thanks for this recipe, I will definitely try this, it sounds delicious :)

    Reply
  • 5. J Miller @ AllTheThymeInTheWorld  |  May 19, 2011 at 3:21 am

    God! Everyone is posting rhubarb recipies and I am so jealous, I was scouring the local grocers for the stuff and couldn”t find it anywhere.. Now you go and post this an make may craving even worse! Looks great, and I can wait to try it if I ever find some..

    Reply
  • 6. Jessica  |  May 19, 2011 at 4:48 am

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, and I must admit I’m totally obsessed. I am not a subscriber; instead, I check for your new posts multiple times per day knowing to expect a post about once per week. I’ve wanted to comment on your blog but have been too intimidated by your writing to post anything and I don’t post on other people’s blogs either. You have a unique gift for writing. The way you vision the world and the imagery you are able to make of it is absolutely breathtaking. The effortless beauty made out of the most mundane events capture me.
    I am one year older than you and went away last year for college myself. Your reflection on life back at home brought tears to my eyes as I remember coming home.
    You have really helped me get through a lot these past few weeks. Your Raspberry Honey Tapioca post is by far my favorite. I too have changed my major, therefore changing the direction of my life and I would like to say you were a part of that decision. I couldn’t summon the words to explain how I was feeling, so instead I sat my family down and had them read your post. They understood.
    I don’t know what compelled me to finally build the strength to comment as I sit on my bed hopelessly studying for my economics final in the morning, I guess I just wanted you, a complete stranger, to know how much you have impacted my life and how much I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for sharing a part of your world with us through your inspiring posts and loving recipes.
    P.S. – You are a wonderful photographer as well.

    Reply
  • 7. Evan  |  May 19, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Welcome back home, Elissa. I remember how great it felt to return after my first year at college–bittersweet, but satisfying in an almost indescribable way. The silver lining about being away from I and Boston is that college summers are very long–and there’s plenty of time for travel and visits. And, of course, baking. Strawberry and rhubarb! What a fantastic way to kick off the summer.

    Reply
  • 8. mollyparr  |  May 19, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I actually have rhubarb in the fridge and a can of oatmeal on the counter, all waiting to fulfill their crisp destiny. Thanks for this recipe. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.

    Reply
  • 9. Nette @ This Dusty House  |  May 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

    In the spring of my third year of university (a junior? we don’t use the terms here in Ontario) I discovered a plant that looked like a brain poking its way up out of the dirt in the back flower bed of the house I had moved into the previous fall. Some more knowledgeable family friends identified it as rhubarb for me. All summer, I ate rhubarb crisp — no strawberry and, in fact, I found I liked it better that way. Strawberry takes some of the boldness away from the rhubarb. It reminded me of my grandmother, who had a huge rhubarb patch and made rhubarb jam every year.

    This year, I insisted on a rhubarb plant for our back garden, now that we have one to call our own. I can’t wait to eat fresh rhubarb again!

    Thank you, again and again, for your beautiful stories.

    Reply
  • 10. Jordan  |  May 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

    This looks like a great recipe I will try this in the future!

    Reply
  • 11. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction  |  May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Congrats on finishing your first year of college!

    Just loved reading this post… You surely have a gift for telling stories, which I just love. Plus, the strawberry rhubarb crisp looks mighty good, too!

    Reply
  • 12. Cookie  |  May 19, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Everything about your blog is captivating…..your beautifully descriptive writing, your photos, and, of course, your recipes. I am looking forward to your first, of many, cookbooks!!! I know each cookbook will tug at my heart, vision, and tummy!

    You have the heart of an old soul packed in that young body!

    Reply
  • 13. Procrastibaking  |  May 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Little known fact: Rhubarb leaves are incredibly lethal and cause death through toxic shock. That said, your crisp looks divine.

    Reply
  • 14. Emily  |  May 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    What a sweet post. Love the parallel between sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb, your boyfriend’s family and yours; sounds like a good match : ) I too am a Seattleite that went away for college and went back and forth between missing it terribly and being glad I got away. Hope you’re enjoying this Seattle sun!

    Reply
  • 15. Sue  |  May 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I have yet to make something with rhubarb, but I see it in my near future:) This crisp looks so beautiful and fantastic! Congrats on finishing your first year of college!

    Reply
  • 16. jacquie  |  May 19, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    yummy looking. i love rhubarb and always look forward to it’s arrival. but i have never heard of peeling it before using – do you know why I’s family does that? i wonder what it contributes to the dish.

    and congrats on being done w/ the 1st year. enjoy your summer and time being together.

    Reply
  • 17. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  May 20, 2011 at 2:16 am

    I love a good crisp, and with rhubarb in season, this is a perfect recipe. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • 18. Lea  |  May 20, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Yummy, this looks great!
    Crumbles are no way common here.
    But I love rhubarb!

    Reply
  • 19. Friday Favorites – Episode 93 | my kitchen addiction  |  May 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

    [...] just love it! The next time I see some, I will surely pick it up because I want to try this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp from 17 and Baking.  Not only does the dessert look amazing, but, as always, Elissa shares a beautiful story, [...]

    Reply
  • 20. Rachel  |  May 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious. I love strawberry rhubarb pie, but I’ve never thought about strawberry rhubarb crisp. Such an excellent idea…

    Welcome back to Seattle. Isn’t the weather fabulous? :)

    Reply
  • 21. Sharlene  |  May 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Congratulations on finishing freshman year. This pie looks amazing. Recipes with that much effort and history are always the best to keep.

    Reply
  • 22. christina  |  May 20, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Welcome home. Your recipie looks amazing. I wish that we had red rubarb at my house. We’ve planted one but it hasn’t established yet. All we have is this great green rubarb. We use it in both strawberry and apple pies in my house. It may look like we’ve baked celery into the pie but it tastes amazing! Plus it starts some great story sharing when people think you’ve done something as idiotic as baking celery into an apple pie.
    I hope you have lots of great summer times, and I totally sympathize with missing the boyfriend. Mine has been gone for 6 months between his family in texas, mexico and germany. You’ll get to see him soon.

    Reply
  • 23. figsinmybelly  |  May 20, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Oh wow. Gorgeous. Last summer I lived in a suburb of Paris and we made rhubarb jam and it was green because the rhubarb was wild from the garden!!

    This recipe looks fantastic, I am dying to try it out! By the way, I have been revamping my blog and I really admire your website. Very clean looking with a huge emphasis on your photography and writing. Love it!

    http://figsinmybelly.com/

    Reply
  • 24. Tarnia  |  May 20, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    We shared your chocolate crinkles looking at the work to be done in our yard which happens to have RHUBARB! Thank you for the recipes which warm my heart and make me miss my mom less god rest her soul gone 4 years now – she adored rhubarb. I will enjoy this and the memories.
    Please keep posting and congratulations on another year completed.

    Reply
  • 25. Jaime {sophistimom}  |  May 21, 2011 at 12:45 am

    That shot of rhubarb skins is transcendent.

    Maine is where my family always went on vacation. I love it there.

    Wow, Maine and rhubarb. Two of my favorite things. I’d say this is a perfect post.

    Reply
  • 26. Becca@Butteraneggs  |  May 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    yum, I love the tangyness of rhubarb. I’m gld your back and settled, Maine sounds beautiful!

    Reply
  • 27. Rachel  |  May 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve never had rhubarb for the exact reasons you mention in this post. I’ve also never considered actually, y’know, growing it, ha! This looks good.

    Reply
  • 28. Geni - Sweet and Crumby  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I think I just let out an audible sigh of relief that you are home with your family now. Your dad’s comments always made me a little misty eyed and I can imagine my pain and pride when my now sixteen-year-old will leave me for college. What a year you have had that you have sweetly shared with your readers. We appreciate that and enjoy getting to be a fly on your wall through your first year. I am now anxiously awaiting more posts…no pressure just hoping.

    Reply
  • 29. Kelly  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Sounds delicious. You write so beautifully, I always enjoy reading your posts!

    Reply
  • 30. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking  |  May 22, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Welcome home, Elissa.
    Relax, enjoy your summer and the time in your kitchen with your family.
    Ah, the comforts of home…including strawberry rhubarb crisp.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  • 31. Alisa  |  May 23, 2011 at 10:55 am

    looks like you’re due for an update on your wishlist/goals page! :)

    Reply
  • 32. Anna Kristina  |  May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Growing up, my grandma made blueberry rhubarb jam all the time. It was one of my favorite things about visiting the farm – that jam on homemade rolls. I don’t remember the first time I had strawberry and rhubarb together, but I know I fell in love. And I’ll be anxiously awaiting finding rhubarb here in Boston (maybe at the Copley Farmer’s Market) so I can give this recipe a shot!

    Reply
  • 33. Jen @ keepitsimplefoods  |  May 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    This sounds like summertime perfection. Yum!

    Reply
  • 34. Denise  |  May 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Elissa, what Seattle are you living in? Tell me about this sun! Seriously, welcome home.

    Reply
  • 35. Vanessa Ramm  |  May 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I’m glad your first year in college went so well. I started reading your blog about a year ago and actually cried when you went to school as I was thinking about my daughter leaving for college which will be this fall. I’m sure your family is so happy to have you home. Enjoy your summer!

    Reply
  • 36. Ruthe  |  May 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Welcome home! Always enjoy reading your blog. You are a gifted writer and photographer. Your post this time really reflects most of life. The things we miss and the new things we experience, the sweet and tangy, the comparison of what we have known to what we are learning. All of life is this great learning process. I congratulate your parents on bringing up a child that can appreciate both as much as you do. We should all be so fortunate. Good luck with school! Keep those great articles and recipes coming!

    Reply
  • 37. paddleattachment  |  May 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Yum – I grew up with rhubarb, in Colorado, so I’ve been a fan for a while. Your post about reaching out and reaching back home (and out again) reminded me of a children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie….” Good stuff!

    Reply
  • 38. megan {a dash of megnut}  |  May 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Strawberry Rhubarb pie is my grandpa’s favorite. maybe I’ll try to make this for him. I’m sure he’d love it!

    Reply
  • 39. Pille @ Nami-Nami  |  May 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    What a beautiful photo, Elissa!! I’m lucky to live in Estonia (just below Finland), where rhubarb is cheap and abundant (and currently in season). My blog has lots of rhubarb recipes, and I’m planning to make something with rhubarb every other day while the season lasts (that’s late June).

    BTW – as far as I know, there’s absolutely no need to peel the rhubarb stalks – at lesat not the young and reasonably slim ones. I never do (but I avoid thick rubbery stalks at any cost anyway).

    Reply
  • 40. Lorraine Marie  |  May 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I’ve only had rhubarb once and loved it – my husband won’t touch it, though. Maybe if I used this recipe he’ll have a change in heart. Welcome back to Seattle – I hope you brought plenty of sunshine with you!

    Reply
  • 41. The Teenage Taste  |  May 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve never ever had rhubarb before but now I am desperate to try it! This crisp looks amazing! :-D

    Reply
  • 42. clém'  |  June 2, 2011 at 6:04 am

    humm it looks delicious ! Your pictures are amazing! ;)
    Bye! :)

    Reply
  • 43. Matt @ StartingtoCook  |  June 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Welcome home! I can’t wait to see what you get up to this summer. I know when you went away things got quiet and I lost a bit of track of this site – catching up now in anticipation of a great summer! :)

    Reply
  • 44. Miss Anthropist  |  June 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

    This looks fabulous! Love the story that came alone with it :)

    Reply
  • 45. outsideoslo  |  June 6, 2011 at 11:24 am

    What a sweet recipe to have. Family recipes are so precious, as so much love and memories are attached to them. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • 46. Voe  |  June 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to say congratulations on a brilliant blog. Your recipes look delicious.

    All the best,
    Voe.
    _____________________________________

    http://pearlwhisk.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • 47. Food Therapy from 17 and Baking | Public Radio Kitchen  |  June 8, 2011 at 11:21 am

    [...] of 17 and Baking (now actually 19 and baking – a college sophomore!) shares my hesitation. “I can count [...]

    Reply
  • 48. Jeanette Heth  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Perfect summer recipe! Will definitely have to try this one out! :-)
    – Jeanette (www.sugarloco.com)

    Reply
  • 49. Jessica  |  June 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I just clicked through your wishlist again and saw your to-cook list still has ‘something with rhubarb’ on it! Make sure you cross that off your list now!

    I grew up in Seattle but I’m at college in the UK and I’m in my 2nd year. Thinking of going back to Seattle makes me really nostalgic and I love your posts so much. Please don’t ever stop blogging!

    Reply
    • 50. Elissa  |  June 9, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Thanks Jessica! I finally went through my wishlist this morning and crossed off rhubarb, plus rugelach from another recent post. Feels good! Now I need to add more things to my wishlist… a thing like that can never be fully accomplished :)

  • 51. --kyleen--  |  June 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I love all your blog posts! I like how it feels as though you’re telling a story behind everything you make. Of course, the pictures are gorgeous as well.

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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