Rhubarb and strawberries are an old-fashioned American combination. Think lattice-weave-pastry-topped pie wedges served up with scoops of home-churned vanilla ice cream—an early summer stand-by at any number of small-town, middle-America diners of yesteryear. Perch on a Naugahyde-covered stool at the counter, sip a mug of black coffee (no latté please) and tuck into a forkful. Nothing better on earth. While this exact experience might be a relic of the past, the taste is easy to recreate with a simple crumble topping instead of the pie crust. Serve some up with this week’s ruby-red rhubarb. You won’t find this spring jewel in the markets much longer.
The tapioca thickens up the fruit juice as the filling cooks creating a smooth consistency (a time-honored trick). You can easily omit it without losing too much—though it’s great to have a box in the cupboard for pie-making endeavors. Use granulated sugar that’s organic and minimally processed if possible, such as Turbinado or Demerara.
- 2 cups sliced rhubarb
- 2 cups sliced strawberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons tapioca
- 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose, or a combination)
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- one large pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly mix rhubarb, strawberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and tapioca in a deep pie pan. Spread evenly across the bottom of the pan.
- In a medium-sized bowl combine remaining ingredients, mixing with clean hands until roughly incorporated. There will be chunks about the size of peas, plus coarse particles resembling moist sand. Do not over mix.
- Spread topping mixture loosely and evenly over fruit mixture, and place into the hot oven to bake for about 30 minutes, until topping is golden and fruit bubbles up around the edges of the crumble topping.
- Cool slightly and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or cool completely and enjoy at room temperature.