As I write on this overcast late spring morning I’m finding myself contemplating life, and the changes that each and every new season brings. It’s something like a clean sweep, taking out the old and bringing in the new – and in my work that has a lot to do with seasonal foods, and in some part, the memories that come with them.
We always had rhubarb growing on the farm; in fact we had everything planted on the farm! Mom liked to keep some things planted close to the house and among other things, the rhubarb was in a flower bed just under the kitchen window. (She always kept the chives close by as well!)
Mom would usually cook things with the rhubarb and as a kid I would only eat it raw – with a cut end dipped in sugar. Tart. Sweet. Fresh. That’s how I remember rhubarb. Recently I was inspired to make something with the classic spring combo of strawberries & rhubarb, and these bars are what I came up with.
Using my trusted date square recipe for the oat crumble part, I simply had to make a filling. I knew I wanted it to keep the freshness of the produce, so I knew a short cooking time was in order.
Just a quick few minutes I figured, to soften the rhubarb. Not wanting the strawberries to totally lose their structure and become entirely mushy, I opted to add them to the filling after cooking & cooling the rhubarb. There was still the baking time, after all.
Can you see how fresh this is!! Both the short cooking time for the rhubarb and not pre-cooking the strawberries gave this gorgeous result.
Leaving the overhanging parchment ensures easy removal, so please do this step. You can lift out the entire thing, transfer it to a cutting board and make nice, neat cuts – into bars, squares or whatever you like. It also means you can put it back in the fridge… if there’s any left!
Whatever you do… don’t cover it! If you want the topping to keep its crispness, leave the pan uncovered. As you cut off pieces, you can use the parchment for double duty – pulling it up against the side, to keep the filling fresh. A light dusting of icing sugar is all that’s needed, but to really go for it, top with a scoop of ice cream.
- 2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1” pieces (approx. 2 1/2 stalks)
- 2 TBSP approx. sugar
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1 orange, finely zested
- small pinch salt
- 1 TBSP tapioca flour, (dissolved in water below - could also use cornstarch)
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 2 cups strawberries, cut into various sized pieces (some will melt, some will keep their shape)
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup good fruity extra virgin olive oil (or use all butter if you prefer)
- 2 TBSP approx. sliced almonds
- In a medium sized saucepan, add rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, orange zest & salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the tapioca flour dissolved in water, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool and start on the crumble mixture. (You’ll add the strawberries later.)
- Turn your oven to 350° and line an 8” square baking pan with parchment paper; have the bottom piece overhanging for easy removal and cutting. Then lightly butter or spray.
- In large bowl combine oats, flour, brown sugar, soda and salt. Add in butter & oil, stirring to form various sized pieces of crumbles.
- Put just over half in a butter 8" pan, pressing down to make your base. Add strawberries to cooled rhubarb mixture and stir to combine. Add the fruit to the prepared base, spreading into the corners.
- Add sliced almonds to remaining crumble, then scatter over the fruit, leaving some of the filling peaking through.
- Bake @ 350º for approx 30 minutes, until golden on top.
- *You could use more sugar in the fruit filling, but this keeps it not-too-sweet, and does not overpower the tartness & freshness of the fruit.