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Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp

Over two centuries ago, English cooks first recognized the culinary potential of rhubarb, until then regarded as an ornamental plant. Although actually a hardy perennial vegetable, rhubarb is generally treated as a fruit and often combined with strawberries, which are also harvested in the spring. Be sure to trim off the toxic leaves from the stalks before using. Serve this sprightly crisp à la mode and garnish with long-stemmed fraises des bois, if you like.

Ingredients:

For the crisp topping:

  • 3/4 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
      temperature

For the fruit filling:

  • 1 1/2 lb. rhubarb
  • 2 cups strawberries, stems removed, halved
      lengthwise
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, or as needed

Directions:

To make the topping, preheat an oven to 350°F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Increase the oven temperature to375°F.

Place the nuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse several times to form
1/4-inch pieces. Transfer the nuts to a small bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, orange zest and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture and the butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture just begins to hold together. Add the nuts and pulse 3 or 4 more times until evenly distributed.

To make the filling, trim the tough ends and the leaves from the rhubarb stalks, then cut the stalks crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl with the strawberries, flour and 1/2 cup granulated sugar, adding more sugar if the strawberries are not particularly sweet. Toss until well mixed. Place the fruit in a 2 to 2 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish and sprinkle the topping evenly over the surface.

Bake until a skewer inserted into the center enters without any resistance and the top is golden and bubbling around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon the crisp into individual dishes.
Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Spring, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).