En­ter­tain­ing ease

Straw­berry-rhubarb crisp is sim­ple to make and per­fect for sum­mer vis­i­tors

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD & DRINK - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KARMEL THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The crisp, cob­bler, crum­ble, grunt, slump or buckle. What do these all have in com­mon? They are all fruit desserts baked with a sweet “pastry” top­ping.

They’re also the epit­ome of a fresh sum­mer dessert - al­though I have been known to turn ap­ples and pears into crisps in the fall. Still, a hot sum­mer fruit dessert topped with vanilla ice cream is the essence of sum­mer.

I am par­tial to a crisp which is fruit topped with a com­bi­na­tion of “crisp” oat­meal, flour, but­ter and sugar and some­times nuts. The top­ping ranges from streusel to gra­nola and com­pletely cov­ers the fruit. Since the top­ping is ev­ery­one’s favourite part of the dessert, I add pecans to make the crisp top­ping even more crunchy and sub­stan­tial. I think of it as the dessert version of gra­nola. The crisp is some­times re­ferred to as a crum­ble or a buckle when a more clas­sic streusel top­ping is used.

Cob­blers are gen­er­ally topped with bat­ters or bis­cuits and the top­ping is spooned on to the fruit leav­ing space that the fruit can bub­ble up and show through. Grunts or slumps are like cob­blers and the name is pur­ported to come from the sound that the fruit makes as it cooks and emits steam through the spa­ces be­tween the bis­cuits.

No mat­ter how it is topped, I love to grill this dessert. Even though the process is sim­i­lar to bak­ing it in the oven, it is much more dra­matic and you will surely im­press your friends and fam­ily.

In the sum­mer, I make a crisp al­most ev­ery week. Right now, I am mak­ing it with straw­ber­ries and rhubarb, but it is good with what­ever fruit you find at the mar­ket. Make sure that the fruit is ripe, and mix it with a lit­tle bit of sugar, cit­rus and cin­na­mon. The ad­di­tion of Grand Marnier is op­tional but one that I al­ways opt for as it makes a big dif­fer­ence in the depth of flavour, and mar­ry­ing all the in­gre­di­ents. If you don’t have Grand Marnier, add a bit of bour­bon or your favourite cit­rus or nut liqueur.

When you toss the fruit with the sugar and corn­starch, be sure to mix well and let the fruit sit for 5 min­utes to bring out the nat­u­ral juices and mix again.

When bak­ing, make sure that you bake long enough for the corn­starch and fruit juices to bub­ble up and turn opaque or your crisp will taste slightly raw and gritty in­stead of silky smooth and fruit tart. The taletell sign of a crisp that is done cook­ing is the drips of this juice run­ning down the side of the dish.

The dessert is made for easy en­ter­tain­ing since you can as­sem­ble it early in the day and bake it just be­fore you want to eat it and serve it hot-off-the grill, or bake it in ad­vance and serve it at room tem­per­a­ture.

If I am bak­ing it while we eat, I put the crisp on the grill over in­di­rect medium heat when I take the meat off the grill. That way, it is bub­bling and hot when ev­ery­one is ready for dessert. I love the drama of lift­ing the lid of the grill in front of my guests and see­ing their eyes light up with the thought of a grilled fruit crisp. Ei­ther way, it is en­hanced by a scoop of

best-qual­ity vanilla ice cream!

STRAWBERRYRHUBARB CRISP WITH PECAN TOP­PING

Servings: 10

Start to fin­ish: 110 min­utes (20 min­utes ac­tive)

Top­ping:

1 C packed light brown sugar

1 C all-pur­pose flour

1 C reg­u­lar or quick-cook­ing oat­meal (not in­stant)

1 C coarsely chopped pecans

1 tsp ground cin­na­mon

½ tsp kosher salt

1/2cup un­salted but­ter, soft­ened, cut into small pieces, 1 stick

Fill­ing:

3 lbs. straw­ber­ries, cleaned and halved, 5 gen­er­ous cups

2 C chopped rhubarb, about 3 stalks

1/3 cup gran­u­lated white sugar

1 or­ange, zested and juiced (about 1/2 cup to­tal)

1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 1/2 cup to­tal)

2/3cup sugar in the raw

1/4 cup corn­starch

1 tsp ground cin­na­mon

2 tbs Grand Marnier, op­tional

Build a char­coal fire or pre­heat a gas grill. Or pre­heat oven to 350 F. Make the top­ping: In a large bowl, com­bine all the top­ping in­gre­di­ents ex­cept the but­ter. Work in the but­ter with a pastry blender or fork un­til the mix­ture re­sem­bles large, coarse bread crumbs. Set aside. Make the fill­ing: In an­other large bowl, place the straw­ber­ries. In a smaller bowl, toss the chopped rhubarb. Add the or­ange juice, lemon juice, or­ange and lemon zests, sugar, corn­starch, and cin­na­mon; mix lightly. Add the Grand Marnier, if us­ing. Set aside for 5 min­utes. Place the fruit mix­ture in a deep round bak­ing dish or souf­fle dish. Top it evenly with the streusel mix­ture.

In a grill, place the dish in the cen­tre of the cook­ing grate over in­di­rect medium heat, cover the grill, and bake.

In the oven, set the dish on a sheet pan and place in the cen­tre of the oven. Bake for 60-90 min­utes, or un­til the juices bub­ble over the bak­ing dish, and are clear, and the top is browned.

Chef’s Note: For those of you used to mak­ing fruit crisps, you may be sur­prised by the longer cook­ing time, but the rhubarb takes longer than most fruit to cook. I made this twice, and the first time that I took out the crisp at 60 min­utes, the rhubarb was still crunchy. Ninety min­utes re­sulted in a per­fect tex­ture. Trans­fer the bak­ing dish to a cool­ing rack. Serve warm with ice cream, if de­sired.

Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 444 calo­ries; 160 calo­ries from fat; 18 g fat (7 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 24 mg choles­terol; 107 mg sodium; 72 g car­bo­hy­drate; 5 g fiber; 50 g sugar; 4 g pro­tein.

RICHARD DREW/AP PHOTO

Hot and crunchy, Straw­berry-rhubarb crisp, served with vanilla ice cream is a per­fect way to end a sum­mer meal.

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