A few days back, I had the opportunity to go to the Ben E. Keith food show in Hot Springs. It was my first time to attend, and I came ready — with a cooler in my car. I had heard that, if you hang out long enough, they start giving away food at the end of the show, because they can’t sell it after it’s been on display. I did not go home disappointed.
Long story short, my haul included some rhubarb, one of those things I’ve always wanted to try but never got around to it. Its timeliness in early summer corresponds just right with strawberry season, which probably explains why they go together so often.
Having been gluten-free for several months now, I contemplated a pie, but the crust issue made me tired. It’s possible, even fairly foolproof with the new Cup4Cup flour I’ve discovered, but…it was a long week.
I needed something to demonstrate at my daughter’s 4th grade classroom. It has become tradition in recent years for me to do this, in full chef coat regalia, during the last week of school to allow the teacher an hour or two to finish up paperwork. The night before, it hit me: a strawberry rhubarb crisp, with granola on top. What a great idea to carry over for summer breakfasts!
So, around midnight before the demo, here I am, cooking up this stuff. It’s traditionally done with tapioca pearls, which honestly kinda gross me out, but my gluten-free pantry offered the solution of tapioca flour. I ended up slightly overdoing it for something to be eaten out of a bowl, but it would stay together quite nicely in a pie crust this way. I think, next time, I’ll just use one tablespoon of the flour unless it’s going in a pie proper.
I was honestly kind of surprised that most of the kids loved it. Rhubarb was kind of a stretch, and I was using it mostly for educational purposes, holding up the odd, red-celery-looking thing and talking about produce. You’d be amazed how sophisticated their palates can be. (I brought sushi to have lunch with my daughter one day this year, which she loves, and several of the other kids tried it or said they’ve had it before.)
So, don’t be afraid to try this with the kids this summer. Make a big batch, buy a box of granola cereal (read the labels to make sure it’s not full of junk; Cascadian Farms Organic is good and inexpensive), and eat it for breakfast all week!
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Or Pie)
- Two pounds washed strawberries, stemmed and sliced or quartered
- One pound washed rhubarb, cut into 1/4″ dice
- 1 1/4 c. white sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- Pinch salt
- 1-4 T. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
- Granola cereal or a two-layer pie crust
Without turning on the heat, put the washed and cut fruits into a medium saucepan with the sugars and gently stir. If you have time, cover the pan and let it macerate for 30 minutes.
Place the saucepan over medium heat to bring the mixture to a simmer (honestly, just fat-sounding bubbles if there’s not much liquid yet), then reduce to low heat. Stir with a folding motion fairly frequently until the fruit is soft and the strawberries are almost completely broken down, or just to the level of chunkiness you desire.
Add the vanilla, balsamic vinegar and salt, and gently stir.
Add the tapioca flour and mix thoroughly, using less if the mixture is to be used as a crisp and more if as a pie. Heat through for another 5 minutes, to cook the starch well, then remove from the heat. Taste and adjust sweetness or tartness (you may add more balsamic or some lemon juice if you like).
If using as a crisp, place some of the filling in a bowl and sprinkle the cereal on top. If using as a pie, place in a bottom crust, cover with the top, cut vents (or use a super-cool pie bird) and bake as directed in the crust recipe.