Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ginger Rhubarb Apple Crisp

Up until yesterday, I’d only had rhubarb once. It was a long time ago, and as I recall I hadn’t liked it. Maybe it had to do with the store-bought pie it was in, with strawberries and a syrup so sweet and red that it couldn’t have been a natural occurrence. The pie crust was dry, too thick, and probably made with hydrogenated shortening. After one bite, I vowed to never have strawberries in a pie again. As for rhubarb, I was scarred. The bits were so bulky that it hadn’t meshed with the rest of the flavors at all. I never wanted that red-stalked vegetable on the tip of my tongue ever again. 

Maybe the change in heart started when my fellow holistic foodie bloggers started sharing their rhubarb recipes. They gushed about how excited they were to be back in rhubarb season, purchasing the vegetable in bulk from their local farmer’s markets. They published jams, pies, crisps, coffee cakes, muffins, smoothies, drinks, and pickles. Anything under the sun, they made it with rhubarb.

So, just what was so great about rhubarb anyway? Related to the buckwheat plant, this “pie plant” is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fiber, and calcium. It is extremely acidic, so it is often paired with fruits (such as strawberries, peaches, or apples) or a type of sweetener. Throughout the ages it has been acknowledged for its health benefits towards aiding indigestion, diminishing menopausal symptoms, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. There have been reports of anti-oxidant, anti-allergy, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also very easy to grow, freezes well, and requires very little care.

Oh. That’s why rhubarb is so great.

From April to September, this plant is harvested just in time for your summer and fall recipes. And to think, it took me twenty-one years to find out how wonderful it is. For weeks I’d been searching for the stuff, and Mama Dazz surprised me with a bunch of it earlier this week. But what to make with it? I was still a tad skeptical about combining strawberries with rhubarb in a crisp or pie, what with the traumatizing reminiscence of it in my youth and all. For my relationship with rhubarb to only flourish from here, I decided to incorporate the new with the familiar. So when Mama Dazz put her two cents in regarding apples, I knew then what I was making. 

Ginger Rhubarb Apple Crisp

For the filling:
18 oz Rhubarb, finely chopped
16 oz Jazz apples (or Gala), cored and finely chopped
3 oz (or more, to taste) Agave nectar
1 tsp. Ginger, grated
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 pinch Nutmeg

For the topping:
3.5 oz Rolled oats
1 oz Almond meal
2.5 oz Butter, melted
2 tbsp. Maple syrup
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, fold in the ingredients for the filling until thoroughly coated and mixed.
Pour the contents into a greased large pie pan or casserole dish.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat.
Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients for the topping.
Slowly pour the topping into the pan, evenly and thinly spreading it over the filling.
Bake for 45 minutes, and place aluminum foil on top during the last 15 minutes.
The filling should be bubbling, the rhubarb and apple soft and the topping crispy.

Serves 6 – 8 people.

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