Strawberries and rhubarb make a perfect spring pairing. The combination enhances their respective flavors; strawberries taste more interesting and rhubarb far less harsh and acerbic.
Here, I’ve used them in a simple strawberry-rhubarb compote, which would go well on sugared strawberries or ice cream. It could also serve as the basis of a fool, the old-fashioned English dessert made from fruit puree and whipped cream. The same flavor combination appears in a strawberry-rhubarb brown sugar crisp and strawberry-rhubarb muffins, which make a good wake-up call in the morning.
Both strawberries and rhubarb are highly perishable; they store well for just a few days in the refrigerator. Choose red, unblemished strawberries and crisp, brightly colored stalks of rhubarb. To refrigerate, arrange strawberries on a paper towel-lined pan, but wrap rhubarb in an airtight plastic bag. Wash strawberries and rhubarb just before using.
Place the rhubarb, strawberries, zest, sugar, rum or water, tapioca and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Toss them together with your hands until they’re well mixed. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes for the tapioca to soften while you prepare the topping.
Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Set aside a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any juices).
Place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and pecans in a food processor. Pulse on/off to combine. Scatter the butter over the mixture. Pulse on/off until the mixture starts to clump, about 20 to 25 times.
Transfer the fruit to the pie plate, slightly mounding it in the center. The surface will be uneven. Use your fingers to evenly arrange small clumps of topping over the fruit; gently pat it in place.
Bake the crisp until the top is well-browned and the juices are bubbling, about 50 to 60 minutes. The crisp needs to rest up to 2 hours before serving. (It can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. To serve, the crisp should be warm. Reheat it in a 350-degree oven until warm, about 10 to 12 minutes.) Serve with vanilla ice cream.
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