Monday, July 9, 2012

Rhubarb Crunch

Here in the Last Frontier, it's the season of rhubarb.  With our extreme northern latitude, Alaskan summers are in hyperdrive.  In a place where sunglasses are often required at 10:30 p.m. (that is not a joke, lower 48ers), we produce such freaks of nature like this pumpkin  and this zucchini (nicknamed "Baby"- gotta love a gardener with a sense of humor!) 

**SIDENOTE: Ok, I was just going to include those two links, but then I became entranced with this dude's Alaskan veggie website.  Holy CRAP, get a load of these freaking vegetables!  I mean, the guy grew a 42-pound beet, for the love of all that is holy.**

Alright, so back to what I was saying. 

Because of our summer days full of crazy concentrated 20+ hours of sunshine, you'll see a behemoth that looks something like this in practically every yard in Alaska:

I found this monster rhubarb plant in my Mom's front yard after my sister Holly, my niece Claire and I drove from Anchorage to Fairbanks to visit family for the Fourth of July.   I decided it needed a little pruning, and whipped up a childhood favorite.

When I was growing up, my Mom often made us Rhubarb Crunch and served it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream- a delicious dessert we enjoyed during the hot Fairbanks summers.  Rhubarb is the gift that keeps on giving- once you chop off it's limbs for dessert, it just grows new ones.  And the beauty of rhubarb is that once summer is over, you can freeze any unused stalks and enjoy this treat year round.

This dessert is dummy-proof, which is the only kind of baking I'm really successful at (need I remind anyone about the Flat Stanley birthday cake?)  Usually I wing it, especially since my beloved mother can't write a recipe down to save her life.  But I think it's best to start with a recipe if you've never made something before, and veer off from there once you have the basics down. 

For this tasty dish, simply toss the rhubarb with flour and sugar (it will make it's own "juice" once it cooks).  The crumbly topping consists of flour, butter, pecans, oats and brown sugar.  If you like cinnamon, by all means add a pinch.  But I'm not a huge fan, and my Mom never added it, so I skip it. 

Sprinkle the crumbly topping all over the rhubarb, and bake until bubbly and golden brown.  Mine took 35 minutes flat.

Usually folks call this type of dessert a "crisp".  But Mom always called it Rhubarb Crunch when we were kids, and the name stuck.

This delicious dessert comes out sweet, but not too sweet, and with a healthy dose of tartness.  Therefore, I think a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream (think Haagen-Dazs or Breyers) is essential to complete the dish.

The perfect summer dessert, shared with some of my favorite company in the world.  My family.

Me, Holly, Claire, and Milo (Photo by the talented Chris Beck)

Rhubarb Crunch
(Adapted from Everyday Food)

2 pounds rhubarb (about 8 cups), sliced crosswise 3/4 inch thick
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  In the dish, combine the rhubarb, sugar, and 1/4 cup flour until evenly mixed.  Set aside.

2. In a food processor, add the pecans and pulse until the pieces are small but not finely-ground.  Pour into another bowl and set aside.  Combine remaining 1/2 cup flour and the butter and pulse until the pieces are pea-sized.  Add the brown sugar, oats, and the pecans and pulse until combined.  Sprinkle the mixture over the rhubarb.

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until brown and bubbly.  Serve warm with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy! xo H

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