I felt very nostalgic while I was making this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. My Grandma Helen used to make a strawberry rhubarb pie, and I would gobble it up. She taught me how to make the pie, but somehow, my pie never tasted as good as hers. While I was baking on Saturday, I was reminiscing about the delicious southern food she used to prepare. I vaguely remember the cornbread she cooked in her cast iron skillet, and her fried okra. But, by the time I was old enough to have full memories of her cooking, my grandfather had had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery, so she had to change her cooking methods. Her food was still delicious, even with the changes.
I took Les to meet my grandparents before we were married. We joined them for lunch in their tiny apartment. Grandma served us oven fried chicken, a big bowl of potato salad, a green salad and zucchini in tomato sauce. I remember this lunch vividly—every taste, every bite. We put a big dent in the food she had on the table. When some of my cousins showed up to visit, Grandma pulled more chicken out of the oven, and more salad out of the refrigerator. Les was astonished to see the amount of food my grandmother had prepared for our visit (and his mother was no stingy hostess either). I wish I could say we finished off lunch with her famous strawberry rhubarb pie—for the sake of my story at least—but we had banana pudding for dessert.
My Grandma Helen has been gone for over 10 years now, and all of a sudden I had a craving for her strawberry rhubarb pie. It might have something to do with Lisa’s strawberry rhubarb parfait on A Dinner Party, but I don’t know. All I know is the strawberries looked plump and shiny in their basket at the store, the rhubarb was beautiful and red, and they reminded me of my grandma.
I have to admit, my last attempt at making grandma’s pie was about 20 years ago, and was not a complete success (think runny fruit and soggy crust). But I do like crisps, so I decided to try making a strawberry rhubarb crisp. This crisp is sweet and tart, and though it isn’t exactly like my grandma’s pie, it was close enough to transport me back.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Adapted from the Apple Crisp recipe in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
4 cups strawberries, trimmed and sliced
2 cups of rhubarb, sliced
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup and 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar, or to taste
5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus butter for the pan
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the fruit with the cornstarch, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and the lemon juice, and spread the mixture into a buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
Combine all of the other ingredients, including the remaining cinnamon and brown sugar, in a food processor and pulse a few times until everything is well incorporated, but not uniform. You can also mix by hand, but soften the butter slightly first.
Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake until fruit is bubbling and the topping is browned about 30 to 40 minutes. You can serve hot, warm or at room temperature.