Posts Tagged ‘rhubarb’

Fruit Crisp – In a Jar!

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Summer has arrived in Seattle! Literally … and figuratively in the form of an abundance of fresh produce. I feel like it’s the dawn of an entirely new culinary season. The colors, the smells, the tastes – all so exuberant and refreshing. Can you tell I’m excited?

I’m especially thrilled about the fruit. Everything seems plump and sugary and, well, genuine. No depending on frozen berries or boring apples (nothing personal – they saw me through winter). No more rock-hard peaches that cost a gazillion dollars a pound.

It’s hard to imagine anything better than enjoying it in its natural state. Apricots pried fresh off the pit. Strawberries and blueberries so sweet they’re better than candy. So when I tried a brand new, ingenious preparation of fruit – I was instantly infatuated. Individual fruit crisps – made in cute little canning jars. Kept in the freezer only to be whisked out at a moment’s notice for an instant, homemade dessert. Brilliant!

I’m afraid I cannot take credit for the idea. My dear friend Sonya (a jarring genius) turned me onto a wonderful blog called Wendolonia where a lovely woman named Wendy concocts everything from craft projects to homemade bento boxes. A cunningly creative individual that Wendy. Her post titled “Crisp in a Jar” is what provoked my new found love of these little delights. And she kindly agreed to let me share her recipe.

Step-by-step instructions are featured below. But in a nutshell, you can choose any kind of fruit you like, toss it about with some sugar and flour, pack it into a petite canning jar and cover it with a topping of oats and sugar and cinnamon and a few other simple ingredients. Then screw on the top, place it in the freezer and store for the entire summer.  Subsequently, whenever you’re in the mood for a little treat – break it out, toss it into the oven and just over 30 minutes later – voila! Instant deliciousness.

One of my favorite things about these gems … you can use almost any kind of fruit. I concocted a number of tasty combinations including blueberry/nectarine with a dash of nutmeg, strawberry/rhubarb laced with cinnamon and apricot with a hit of candied ginger.

But the best part – they make the sweetest gifts. I froze a few last night and delivered them to a friend this morning. She was thrilled! Just think about having them on hand to bring to a sick friend. What could be better?

So … I am smitten. I can’t wait to have a dinner party and pop these individual crisps into the oven as the night unfolds and then … ta-da! A platter laden with a variety of jewel-toned desserts, molten inside and crisp on top – emitting the enticing scent of cinnamon and the inescapable allure of bubbling fruit. I think I need to head to the freezer right now – a fruit crisp is calling.

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Crisp in a Jar

The Equipment

Canning jars come in a number of shapes and sizes and are available at grocery stores and hardware stores in every neighborhood. Wide-mouth half pints are really your best bet – wide enough to fill easily and just the right size for an individual serving.

The Fruit Filling

Ingredients:

  • Fresh or frozen fruit — about 1 cup of fruit per jar
  • 1 tablespoon of white or brown sugar per cup of fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of flour per cup of fruit — a little more for frozen fruit or extra juicy fruit like berries
  • flavorings such as vanilla extract, nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

If possible, I would recommend making at least 8-9 jars at a time – necessitating 8-9 cups of chopped fruit along with the appropriate amount of sugar, flour and flavorings outlined above. This way – you’ll be able to use half the crisp topping (recipe below) and freeze the other half. Otherwise, you get into using a half a stick of butter and what’s the point, really … when you can make a bunch and give them away or freeze them for handy, delicious desserts?

Fruit filling instructions:

  • If you’re using frozen fruit, give it a rinse to thaw it a bit and let it sit to drain for a few minutes. This will get rid of some of the excess juice.
  • If you’re using fresh fruit, peel as appropriate (i.e. apples, pears, etc.) and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
  • Mix in flour and sugar. For super juicy fruit – use a ratio of 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of fruit, rather than 1 tablespoon to 1 cup.
  • If you want to use extra flavorings, mix it in at the end. (I used about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon with the rhubarb/strawberry combo, a pinch of nutmeg with the blueberry/nectarine and a tablespoon of finely chopped candied ginger with the apricot).
  • Fill the jars up to the line just below the screw rings. This will give you plenty of space for the topping.

The Crisp Topping

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

This will make a ton of topping – enough for 16-18 jars. If you’re only making a few jars of crisp, you can put the extra in a ziploc bag and freeze it for another batch or you can just make half as much.

Crisp Topping Instructions:

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Cut the butter up into little cubes. I like to freeze mine before cutting up.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender. I ended up using my cuisinart after mixing everything together to get it to the right consistency – which looks like pebbled sand.

Take a hand full of the topping and press it evenly onto the top of the fruit. The original recipe estimated about 1/3 cup of topping per jar – but I used a bit less out of fear of packing it down too much. She obviously had excellent results with her recipe and it is no doubt perfect. I’m just a little timid because a fruit crisp explosion in the oven is that last thing I want. Once all the jars are done, put on the lid and pop it into the freezer. They should keep for three or more months.

Baking Instructions:

When you’re ready to bake one (or more) of the crisps, pull it out of the freezer, remove the lid, allow to thaw for about 10 minutes, stick it on a baking sheet and put it in the (cold) oven. Set the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35-45 minutes. The filling will be bubbling and the topping turning brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. And enjoy! It’s virtually impossible not to.

Rhubarb Revamped

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

I think rhubarb is one of the most beautiful vegetables around (that’s right – it’s a vegetable). Varying from deep ruby red to pale carnation pink on the outside, the insides of the stalks are a surprisingly vivid green when cut open. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Gingered Rhubarb Chutney I was intrigued. I imagined a jar full of majestic chunks of crimson swimming in a thick, lustrous sauce. It would be such a striking accompaniment for grilled pork or chicken or a lovely sauce for roasted vegetables. Even a stunning accessory for a cheese plate.

So I picked up a bunch of freshly picked rhubarb from our local farmer’s market and headed over to my friend Caitlin’s house for an afternoon of culinary experimentation. We were baking my favorite muffins as well as a new recipe for a healthy banana coconut version. And we agreed that the rhubarb chutney recipe sounded like a winner – so why not try it. I figured that it was meant to be when I noticed that the jaunty letters she has splayed above her kitchen matched the ruby red of the rhubarb stalks poking out of my bag…

I suppose I should have read the recipe a little closer. I was initially focused, however, on the baking. While I was elbow deep in muffins, Caitlin carefully measured all the Chutney ingredients into her lovely orange Le Creuset French oven. When I finally turned my attention to the simmering pot I was mildly surprised to note its dark brown appearance. I hadn’t realized that the balsamic vinegar would dominate the contents to such a degree. I was, admittedly, a bit dismayed – thinking that the visually appealing jars of ruby red chutney I had hoped to dole out as gifts were not meant to be.  But Caitlin was encouraging so we let the pot do its thing.

What resulted when all was said and done was a densely flavored chutney featuring a strong acidic hit from the rhubarb and vinegar, balanced by the sweetness of the currants. The various spices – the ginger, cardamom and jalapeño – all melded together to give it an unexpected dimension. And when Caitlin’s dear husband (another true foodie) tasted it, his only response was, “Word.” Which translates to “yum.” They assured me the chutney would be an excellent accompaniment to all the grilled meats they prepare. And I agree that it’s a keeper.

So – lesson learned. We started out with a stunningly gorgeous vegetable – one that I gaze at adoringly in its natural state.  And it turned into something I hesitated to photograph for this post. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving.  

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Gingered Rhubarb Chutney

(Adopted from a Cooking Light recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups finely chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about a half hour or until it thickens.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This can be stored in jars in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Mom & Me … Strawberries & Rhubarb

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

I love pie. Almost every kind. My two favorites, however, are rhubarb and strawberry. Not the popular combination of the two. Plain rhubarb in a regular old pie crust – which is tart and refreshing and just sweet enough. And plain strawberry with a graham cracker crust – the almost savory notes of the crust combining perfectly with the sweetness of the berry filling. Two separate pies. Because, really, can you have too much pie?

These are my favorites because they are the ones mom used to make. She made the strawberry version for Easter dinner. As you can see from this picture – featuring the two of us in the dresses she sewed by hand – Easter was a time of celebration in our family. And, much more than the enormous ham and various side dishes, I remember the pie. And the rhubarb was always dad’s favorite. And quickly became one I requested during the spring – when rhubarb was plentiful in the garden.

As you may have gathered over the many posts that reference my mother – she had an enormous impact in my culinary abilities and inclinations and my general love of food. I am thinking of her today more than ever. My mom passed away two years ago to the day today. April 11, 2008. A year ago, on the first anniversary of this difficult day, I was in a different place. I was angry and miserable and sad and felt very, very alone. I am happy to report that, though I miss mom more than words can say, today I have found a bit of peace. Today I wanted to celebrate my mom. So I baked pies.

I thought up this concept weeks ago as I searched for the best way to honor her. I asked dad to email the recipes. I conjured up how I was going to photograph the gorgeous crimson fruits. Oh, how I planned. And then, life threw me a curve ball.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. Mom was diagnosed with almost the exact same kind of breast cancer at age 56 and recovered – surviving for nearly 14 years before succumbing to pancreatic cancer. The news was, obviously, a blow. The past week involved a last-minute trip to California to spend time with my brother and father (who is going through radiation treatments for prostate cancer and is unable to fly up here to be with me). It has also included 7 doctor’s visits, a more thorough understanding of the Swedish Cancer Institute than I ever anticipated (or desired) and a few changes in my plans for the summer.

I don’t want to focus too much on my cancer in this blog. This is a place for talking about cooking and nurturing and musings about glorious dishes and recipes. Naturally, some of my future writing will be informed by my situation. My interest in fresh produce and healthy eating has been amplified since my diagnosis.

But today I just want to focus on remembering mom. And eat pie for breakfast. And share it with dear friends. And with you.

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Strawberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 8-inch graham cracker crust (see below for recipe)
  • 2 pints (4 cups) strawberries – divided
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, crush 1 pint (2 cups) of slices strawberries with a fork, potato masher or pastry blender. You don’t want a puree, but you’ll want most of the berries to be unrecognizable at this point. Mix in the cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly. You can continue to mash the berried throughout the cooking process as they warm and become more pliable. Cook approximately 7-10 minutes until clear and thickened. It will turn syrupy and glossy and a beautiful, deep red. Remove from heat and cool.

Halve or quarter remaining pint of strawberries – depending on their size. You’ll want them bite-sized but not too big that they’ll need to be cut when in the pie. Once the strawberry mixture is cooled, mix these sliced strawberries in until combined.

Pour the mixture into the crust and refrigerate until chilled – at least one hour.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 ounces graham crackers (12 crackers), finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.

Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of an 8-inch pie dish. Bake until crust is fragrant and edges are golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

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Rhubarb Pie

I have to admit, this was the first time I attempted a double-crust pie. For what it’s worth – the final product I placed in the oven was not pretty. The top crust was patched together, resembling a quilt more than a nice, pristine sheet of dough. However I am trying, hard, to be less of a perfectionist. To “not sweat the small stuff.” And it’ll taste just as good, right? Another note – rhubarb is, by its nature, a watery vegetable (yes, it’s a vegetable – not a fruit). So the consistency of the pie might be runny. I seem to recall mom used instant tapioca instead of the cornstarch from time to time. Something to consider for the next pie I bake.

Ingredients

  • Crust for two-crust pie (recipe below)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 cups (~2 ½ pounds) rhubarb (cut up into 1” slices)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter (chilled and cut into small pieces)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix sugar and cornstarch together. Add to cut up rhubarb and mix thoroughly.

Line the pie pan with one of the crusts. Pour rhubarb mixture into pie pan.  Ensure the sugar is equally spread across the pie.  Dot with pieces of butter. Cover with second pie crust and cut slits in the top to allow steam to release.

Place pie on top of baking sheet (in case any of the juices spill out – not easy to clean up) and bake for approximately 40-50 minutes.

Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Crisco (chilled)
  • 6 tablespoons ice water

Instructions

Mix salt & flour together. Cut in the chilled Crisco until small crumbly flakes form.

Put the 6 tablespoons of ice cold water in a small bowl. Mix a handful of the crumble mixture into the water. Pour this mixture back into the bowl full of flour and salt mixture and use your hands to blend until completely combined. Handle gently and do not over knead.

Shape dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch-wide disks. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Rather than attempt to explain the process of rolling out a proper pie crust, I will defer to Martha Stewart’s instructions. You will note that I did not use her actual recipe – the one featured above is from my friend Kathleen – one of the best bakers I know. If you follow the steps listed on Martha’s site – you can’t go wrong.