Oh yes my friends, it’s that time of year again! That delightful time when fruits and veggies abound (or are about to anyway). Some of you may be harvesting your early growers like rhubarb already, yes? We just planted some, so we’ll have to wait a year or two before we really get the good stuff, but thankfully I found out this morning that weeding pays off. There I was, hunched over showing no mercy to our forever-spreading creeping charlie and dandelions (yes I know you can eat them but there’s only so many a person can stand), when my wonderful neighbour leaned over the fence and said: “Hey! Want some rhubarb?” She then proceeded to toss a huge bundle of 3-foot long stems and leaves in my general direction. (This is the same neighbour who gave us the best zucchini bread ever – I love her). I immediately thought “CRISP! COMPOTE!” – luckily the bundle she tossed was more than enough for both, so here’s a double-whammy recipe since you all know how much I love efficiency in the kitchen. I believe my Mom’s famous (at least in our family) for saying: “Cook once, eat twice.” I tend to cook once and eat for a week, but it’s the same spirit. So we’re going to do rhubarb, two ways (as my favourite chefs on Chopped love to say). We don’t need any cooking music because the birds are all busy singing outside your windows, right?
Ingredients for the crisp:
- 6 cups of bite-sized rhubarb stems (never the leaves), quartered strawberries (or halved if they’re teeny), and whole raspberries in whatever ratio you prefer (I personally prefer a 3:2:1 ratio to minimize the number of raspberry seeds). Whatever you don’t use in the crisp you can throw into a compote which you can then freeze for later (since you’ll be busy eating the crisp).
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar or light brown sugar (I prefer the brown); if you have all rhubarb you might want to up it to 3/4 cup since you won’t have the strawberries and raspberries providing sweetness, which offsets the tart of the rhubarb.
- 1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or half a lemon) and the zest off the lemon
- 1/4 cup flour of your choice (all-purpose gluten-free, chickpea flour, wheat flour, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 cup flour (see above)
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 rolled oats or kamut flakes
- 1/2 cup EarthBalance veggie shortening or veggie butter, melted. You can get away with 1/3 cup if you want, but the 1/2 will give you full-on decadence.
Tip: don’t rub your eye after chopping rhubarb, even after you’ve washed your hands. If you do, total agony, tearing and swearing will ensue, and you’ll feel like there’s something in your eye for hours.
Once the swearing subsides, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and combine your fruit, sugar, lemon, flour and spices in a large bowl, tossing thoroughly so ensure an even coating. Pour the mixture into an 8×8 baking dish and set aside. Grab your mixing bowl and stir your flour, sugar and oat/kamut flakes together. Don’t worry about rinsing the fruit juice out – it’ll add to it and will save you washing up your bowl (for now). Then drizzle the melted “butter” over the dry mixture and use your fingers to incorporate it, making little crumbly, clumpy bits. Top the fruit with the crumble, then toss it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden and crispy. If your fruit is close to the top of your baking dish, consider putting a baking sheet under it to avoid having to clean your oven afterwards.
So, now you have 30 minutes to kill. You can clean up, drink a glass a wine, throw together a compote or – wait – all three can be done in less than 30 minutes, so let’s get to it! Compote is fantastic because it’s so versatile. You can serve it over oatmeal, cereal or toast in the morning, over ice cream or as stuffing for your frapple for dessert, or just eat it outright. The possibilities are endless! I first fell in love with compotes when I was a kid (see frapple again), and again when a friend of mine suggested I make apple pie filling and forget about the crust. It’s just so EASY and more or less healthy (depending on the sugar content) – how could you not love it?! Here, let me show you.
- About 6 cups of the rest of your fruit (rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, peaches, whatever really)
- 1 tbsp of lemon juice (or half a lemon – hey look at that, how convenient, you just so happen to have one)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (if you want a thicker compote than switch with organic cane sugar)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar (only if the majority of your fruit is rhubarb)
- 1 tsp vanilla
Combine all the ingredients into a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stir and cover. And that’s it. You don’t want any more liquid because the fruit will release its own juice as it cooks. All you have to do now is poke at it/stir it every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t boil over/burn. Adjust the heat as necessary – turn it down to low once it starts to boil – the idea is to break your fruit down into a saucy yet chunky fruit sauce. This will take about 10 minutes. Once the compote is at the desired consistency (you can always add a little water or more syrup if you want it thinner or sweeter, or take the cover off to boil off more liquid if it’s too watery), dish it out into containers and let it cool before tossing it into the fridge or freezer. Instant breakfast/dessert/snack, here you come.