When I was little, we had a rhubarb plant in our front yard. I don’t recall if Mom actually planted it or if it was just…there. Rhubarb grows in a lot of places up there, so it could be either. All I remember is that every year around late spring, we’d have this huge, flourishing rhubarb plant producing its strawberry-colored stalks with the big, leafy tops. I’ll never forget the first time I picked a stalk from the plant and took a bite thinking it was like celery. In case you didn’t know…it’s decidedly not. The memory of that plant and my mom’s baking with it inspired this strawberry rhubarb dessert.
That plant used to produce a TON of rhubarb. In return, Mom made all kinds of things out of it. She’d make jam, sauces and all sorts of treats. My absolute favorite, though, was her strawberry rhubarb pie. It’s been YEARS since I’ve had a strawberry rhubarb pie. In fact, my mom passed away 12 years ago, and it was several years before that when she made one last.When I came across the basket of rhubarb at the grocery store we’re shopping at since the move, I KNEW I had to do something with it. In our current small-kitchen environment, pie wasn’t in the cards. I thought about making a crisp, but that’d require an oven too. That’s when I decided to make the base of a crisp in the slow cooker and then create a crisp-like topping on the stove top. I crossed my fingers and set to work.
If you’ve never worked with rhubarb before, it’s important to note that you can’t eat the leaves. The leaves are really high in oxalic acid, which causes nausea and all kinds of stomach upset if you consume it. You’ll also want to peel the outer membrane off the stalks, because that outer membrane is really stringy and can be tough. If you get greenhouse-grown rhubarb, it’s not as tough and can cook down to be soft, but if you’re getting wild-grown rhubarb, you’ll want to peel those outer strips off before you cut it. I diced it this time because it was Chris’ first time trying it, but you can cut it larger if you want. It softens up really nice when you cook it and it’s just irresistible.
I sliced up two pounds of strawberries and about two pounds of rhubarb stalks. Then, I tossed them with about a half-cup of sugar. I didn’t want too much sugar, but since rhubarb can be very tart, it needed a little. I put the sweetened fruit into the slow cooker and then added a little bit of cornstarch to a half-cup of orange juice. I stirred that into the fruit and then sprinkled over a little bit of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. After about three hours on low, everything was thick, bubbly and soft. It’s awesome topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but I wanted to add a little bit of something more….that’s when I set out to make the skillet crisp topping.
It started out like a traditional crisp topping. I got all of the usual suspects together – oats, butter, brown sugar and spices. I mixed all of it together and then pressed it flat into a nonstick skillet. I put the heat on medium and let it simmer. The butter melted around the oatmeal and spice mixture and bubbled away. I let it go for about five minutes or so, then turned it over. After about ten minutes total, it was golden brown, smelled toasty and actually a bit like an oatmeal cookie. I drained it on a paper towel and then crumbled it up. It ended up tasting like a crunchy oatmeal cookie. If you want something quick and easy, very hands-off and no oven required, THIS dish is just that….and it screams spring. Rhubarb’s season is a short one, but it’s definitely one that’s not to be missed.
- 2 pounds rhubarb stalks
- 2 pounds strawberries
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup quick oats
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup softened salted butter
- Trim the leaves and bottoms of the rhubarb stalks, then discard the trimmings.
- Peel the outer husk of the stalks if they’re tough.
- Cut the rhubarb into half-inch or one-inch pieces and put them in a large bowl.
- Hull the strawberries then cut them in half. Put them in with the rhubarb.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the top, add the cinnamon and nutmeg, and toss everything together.
- Add the fruit mixture to the slow cooker.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice, then pour it over the fruit in the slow cooker. Stir.
- Cover and heat on low for about 3 hours, or until the fruit is soft and the juice is bubbly and thick.
- When the fruit is finished, combine the oats, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the butter and mix it all until everything is combined.
- Spread the mixture flat in a skillet on the stove.
- Heat over medium heat until the butter melts completely and sizzles. Let it cook for about 5 minutes or until golden on the bottom.
- Flip it over, breaking it up to brown the bottom. Cook it for another four or five minutes until everything is deep brown.
- Drain the oatmeal topping on paper towels, crumble and store in an airtight container in the fridge.