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Rhubarb crisp a la mode with strawberry sauce

Time1 hour 15 minutes
YieldsServes 8 to 10
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The classic pairing of rhubarb and strawberries works on a couple of levels. Strawberries by themselves can be sweet but a little insipid -- particularly with the varieties most widely planted these days. The addition of rhubarb lends depth and balance. Also, Anthocyanin, the pigment that makes strawberries red, is not heat-stable, so when the berries are cooked, they usually turn an ugly shade of purple, kind of like a bad bruise. But the acidity that makes rhubarb so tart also stabilizes anthocyanin, so the berries’ color remains a bright, clear red after cooking.

In this twist on the classic pairing, rather than cooking the two together, a bit of sugar and some orange juice tame the rhubarb’s astringency. The strawberries “are added” later as a simple sauce made with uncooked strawberries that is poured over the rhubarb crisp just before serving.

If your rhubarb stalks are more than an inch wide, slice them in half lengthwise.

From the story: King of tart

Strawberry sauce

1

In a food processor or food mill, puree the berries until smooth. Add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, making sure the sauce is not too sweet.

2

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Cover and chill. This makes 1 1/2 cups sauce.

Rhubarb crisp and assembly

1

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sugar, cornstarch and orange zest in a large mixing bowl. Cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces (you should have about 5 1/2 cups), add to the bowl and mix with your hands until the rhubarb is evenly covered.

2

In a food processor or mixing bowl, blend the flour, brown sugar, pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Cut the butter into thin chips, then pulse or work the mixture lightly with your fingertips until it is the texture of raw oats.

3

Arrange the rhubarb mixture evenly in a 9 1/2 -inch glass pie plate, making sure all the sugar doesn’t fall to the bottom (if it does, spoon it over the rhubarb again). Sprinkle with the orange juice, then spoon the flour and spice mixture evenly over the dish.

4

Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for even cooking. Serve warm, topped with a small scoop of ice cream and a splash of the bright red sauce.

Adapted from Sylvia Thompson’s “The Kitchen Garden Cookbook.”