As a young child I detested strawberries, although I cannot remember why. For many years, they were on a list of foods to which I was allergic, and therefore exempt from eating, and even today they rarely rank first on my list of favored berries.
However, something magical happens to strawberries in combination with rhubarb, particularly when the two are cooked together to a jam-like consistency and baked into a pie, a tart, a crumble or a crisp. When served warm from the dish, with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, this classic couple always is a signal that summer has arrived.
Rhubarb is thought to be native to the Soviet Union. Its stalks resemble red celery and are processed in the same way--by slicing across the grain with moderate pressure, although the stalks feel quite firm. When cooked, the stalks become jam-like, so rhubarb is often used in combination with early summer fruits such as strawberries.
In addition to slicing rhubarb, the processor mixes the streusel topping for the crisp to sand-like consistency in a matter of seconds. The topping can be made a day in advance, wrapped and refrigerated but it should be sprinkled over the filling immediately before baking.
1/4 pound chilled unsalted butter, cut in 8 pieces
1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup unbleached flour
1 pound rhubarb, rinsed and trimmed
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
Insert metal blade in food processor. Add chilled butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and pulse to consistency of coarse meal. Add flour and pulse until texture is sandy. Wrap and refrigerate.
Cut rhubarb into even lengths to fit upright in food chute and slice with firm push. Transfer rhubarb to large, deep non-aluminum skillet with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Add granulated sugar, adjusting quantity to offset tartness of rhubarb.
Stir in lemon juice and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and jam-like. Cut strawberries in half and stir into hot rhubarb. Stir in vanilla and set mixture aside to cool.
Use remaining 2 tablespoons softened butter to grease 13x9-inch baking dish or other shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish. Spread rhubarb filling in even layer in dish. Sprinkle topping over filling and bake at 375 degrees 35 to 40 minutes or until top is browned and set. Cool to lukewarm before serving. Makes 8 servings.