Thursday, April 17, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Ok. I know, I know. Rhubarb in April? That makes sense- it's just coming into season. But strawberries? In April? Not so much.

Here's the problem. Rhubarb is one of the first food plants to be ready to harvest in the Northeast, which means that rhubarb season has officially begun and the first young stalks- tender and flushed bright, coral pink- have finally appeared in my favourite grocery store.

Ok, that's not really the problem. The real issue is that, of course, the store had gorgeously bright stalks of rhubarb stacked strategically, temptingly close to pallets of strawberries. $8 for 8 pounds of berries is pretty damn cheap. But it's really not strawberry season here. Not even close- we have to wait for July for that. I don't think it's strawberry season on the West Coast either, so I am sure that these California strawberries were grown in a hothouse.

We were all set to resist them, thinking that we'd make do with just rhubarb. I was convinced that the strawberries would be, like so many hothouse grown fruits, all pretty looks with a bland, boring taste. But then, curiosity got the better of me and I leaned in to take a closer look at the ruby gems. That was when it hit me- the most fragrant summery scent I've enjoyed in months wafted up from the pallets.

Really, who can resist the idea of strawberry rhubarb crumble? Strawberry rhubarb sorbet? Strawberry rhubarb preserves? Strawberry rhubarb anything?

Not us. We came home with 8 pounds of tasty strawberries.

So, of course, the inaugural dish for the season's first rhubarb had to be a crumble. Perhaps we were blinded by the excitement of bright, summery flavours laced with a lovely refreshing note from the Cointreau- we happily devoured this plain, no ice cream needed... though I am sure a scoop or two wouldn't hurt!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

For the filling:
2 quarts/16 ounces strawberries, washed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
8 ounces rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon Cointreau (optional)

For the topping:
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400'F. Butter a 12 inch baking dish.

Toss rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and Cointreau (if using) in a bowl and set aside to macerate for 15-30 minutes.

To make the crumble topping, pour the flour and brown sugar into a small bowl. With quick movements and using the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it is thoroughly combined and has a texture like rough sand. Toss in the almonds.

Pour the fruit mixture into the buttered dish. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit juices are bubbling, approximately 40-50 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Farm Share Redux: 2008

At the beginning of January, we signed up for our 2008 CSA farm share. I'm thrilled, as always, especially since the farm shares seem to sell out faster and faster every year!

We opted into everything again this year- the June through October vegetable share, summer fruit share, and the November + December winter vegetable share. And again this year, the amazing organic produce that we pick will be cheaper and more delicious than anything we can find at our local chain grocery stores. Food is so amazingly expensive around here, and I'm always disappointed at how much you have to spend to get decent produce at places like Whole Foods.

Our meat share has been working out beautifully, too. We opted for no lamb, which drives L just a little nuts, but I just don't love the taste and I have a hard time with the idea of lamb and veal. I figure that we can buy it separately if need be. In any case, we've been enjoying amazingly fresh, flavourful meat from Chestnut Farms, and though I seem to be eating less and less meat in general these days, I feel better knowing exactly where our meat comes from.

A has even given the ground beef (a trusty Marcella Hazan cookbook and 6 lazy hours on the stove turned it into the most amazing bolognese) his stamp of approval, and that's a big deal coming from someone who grew up on a self-sufficient farm!

As you may have noticed, rising food prices and local farms/farmers are gaining momentum in the news, and most people agree that buying local whenever possible is a great solution. Buying local, and even better: local and organic produce can be difficult, if not impossible when you live in the city- especially if you don't have a car, and why would you need one in Boston anyway? At the risk of sounding cliché, I do believe that every little bit helps, so we're happy to do our part wherever we can.

My cookbook collection has slowly grown over the winter holidays, and I've been marking intriguing summer vegetable recipes left and right in cookbooks and the newest issues of Gourmet, Bon Appétit and Saveur.

and I have eaten just about as many winter vegetables as we can manage, and even though I'm thrilled that I've got some new winter veggie recipes and techniques under my belt after the snowy, long-and-slow-cooking-friendly New England winter, I know that we are both ready for a change.

I'm craving bright colours, luscious strawberries and melons, buttery zucchini and summer squash, and sweet, juicy tomatoes; winter foods are comforting, but I'm tired of white and orange and bits of green here and there. I'm ready for the 2008 harvest season to start!