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Strawberry & Co.

GOOD COOKING

May 02, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Strawberries and rhubarb make a perfect spring pairing. The combination enhances their respective flavors; strawberries taste more interesting and rhubarb far less harsh and acerbic.

Here, I've used them in a simple strawberry-rhubarb compote, which would go well on sugared strawberries or ice cream. It could also serve as the basis of a fool, the old-fashioned English dessert made from fruit puree and whipped cream. The same flavor combination appears in a strawberry-rhubarb brown sugar crisp and strawberry-rhubarb muffins, which make a good wake-up call in the morning.

Both strawberries and rhubarb are highly perishable; they store well for just a few days in the refrigerator. Choose red, unblemished strawberries and crisp, brightly colored stalks of rhubarb. To refrigerate, arrange strawberries on a paper towel-lined pan, but wrap rhubarb in an airtight plastic bag. Wash strawberries and rhubarb just before using.

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Mandel is a cookbook author.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins With Cinnamon Sugar

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

CINNAMON SUGAR

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small dish and set aside.

MUFFINS

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup oil

2/3 cup buttermilk, well-shaken

1 egg

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup (1/3-inch dice) strawberries

3/4 cup (1/3-inch dice) rhubarb

1 1/2 cups flour, divided

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, oil, buttermilk, egg, egg whites and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.

Place the strawberries and rhubarb in another bowl with 1/2 cup of flour. Use your hands to toss until the fruit is well-coated. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the egg mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine, then add the fruit mixture. Mix well.

Put 1/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon Sugar in each muffin cup. Spread (or shake the pan) until the bottoms of the cups are evenly coated. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into each cup. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of butter over each; sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon Sugar over each.

Bake the muffins until they're well-browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 30 minutes. (These can be completely cooled and frozen up to 1 month in an airtight plastic bag.)

12 muffins. Each muffin: 224 calories; 253 mg sodium; 23 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.93 gram fiber.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 2 hours chilling

If you prefer serving a simple dessert such as a fool, consider this recipe, which makes 4 to 6 servings. Whip 1 cup whipping cream with 1 tablespoon sugar until thick. Alternate layers of cream and compote in narrow stemmed glasses; refrigerate up to 2 hours before serving chilled.

2 cups (1/3-inch) diced rhubarb, about 2 large stalks

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup (1/2-inch) diced strawberries

Sugared strawberries, vanilla or strawberry ice cream, for serving

Place the rhubarb and sugar in a small, heavy non-aluminum saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb is tender but not completely falling apart, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the diced strawberries. (This can be made several days ahead and refrigerated.)

To serve, spoon chilled over berries or ice cream.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 59 calories; 2 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 1.32 grams fiber.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Brown Sugar Crisp

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours

FRUIT

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices

2 1/2 cups halved strawberries (quartered if large)

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum or water

3 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Place the rhubarb, strawberries, zest, sugar, rum or water, tapioca and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Toss them together with your hands until they're well mixed. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes for the tapioca to soften while you prepare the topping.

TOPPING

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup pecans

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Set aside a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any juices).

Place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and pecans in a food processor. Pulse on/off to combine. Scatter the butter over the mixture. Pulse on/off until the mixture starts to clump, about 20 to 25 times.

Transfer the fruit to the pie plate, slightly mounding it in the center. The surface will be uneven. Use your fingers to evenly arrange small clumps of topping over the fruit; gently pat it in place.

Bake the crisp until the top is well-browned and the juices are bubbling, about 50 to 60 minutes. The crisp needs to rest up to 2 hours before serving. (It can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. To serve, the crisp should be warm. Reheat it in a 350-degree oven until warm, about 10 to 12 minutes.) Serve with vanilla ice cream.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 468 calories; 199 mg sodium; 39 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 68 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 4.28 grams fiber.

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