All the Rhubarb

Anything made with rhubarb immediately makes me think of my paternal grandparents. Other triggers for this specific nostalgia: the smell of fresh dill and certain types of sunscreen, raspberries picked fresh off of the bush and eaten while still warm from the sun, Dean Martin and the way someone smells when they are sweating out vodka the next day (this one is not my favorite). Strawberry rhubarb pie was one of my grandmother’s specialties, but when she passed away, the pie disappeared as well. I had never sought out rhubarb so when Lorrie, from Stony Ridge Farm, emailed letting me know it would be in my farm share delivery, I knew this was a sign I needed to revive a family tradition. Pie crust is the bane of my existence and taking a pie on public transportation to share with my coworkers is a pain so I decided to make Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal bars instead. These bars were super delicious, but after 2 days in a Tupperware, their nature moisture steamed the crispy, perfectly browned crust into a soft banana bread-like texture which I found very disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, my coworkers thought they were delicious, but I pictured something more reminiscent of a shortbread crust and not a crumble. Little did I know that another chance to take part in a family recipe legacy would present itself shortly.

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My brother is a helicopter pilot for the Army and deployed for Afghanistan shortly after a family vacation. Prior to every deployment we make sure to schedule some time together as a family and have a good time. Our vacations are focused on three things: 1. floating in a body of water all day 2. drinking 3. eating… in that order. My brother provided all of us with an extensive list of foods he wanted to eat on vacation and like the loving and fat ass family we are, we obliged. Two things I picked to tackle were meats & cheeses (it was written on the list as “the meat sweats”) and a strawberry rhubarb pie.

After not being able to get my hands on my grandmother’s original recipe, I did my research and noticed that many food bloggers noted how runny their pies ended up if they didn’t use cornstarch or tapioca to help absorb the liquid. I went with tapioca after reading that a baker tested both and finding this recipe titled “Grandma’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie”. It may not be my grandma’s, but it’s someone’s! I couldn’t handle the idea of making pie crust from scratch while on vacation so I cheated and got store-bought, no regrets though. As per usual I jammed way too much filling in the crust so it ended up a soupy mess and overflowed the pie plate. The best thing about my family? They still all raved about it and my mom, who does not eat pie, snuck into the kitchen and ate it for breakfast.

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Grandma’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
(originally from Foodnetwork.com)

CRUST:
Go find it in whatever aisle they keep it in the grocery store. If you’re looking to make your own, go read someone else’s blog because I’ve never owned a rolling pin. Pro tip: A wine bottle is a great sub for a rolling pin in a pinch. I aspire to make my own pie crust and be on my own phone plan,but we all have to have goals.

FILLING:
2 1/2 cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
2 1/2 cups de-stemmed, washed and cut strawberries (in larger pieces)
1 1/2 cups sugar (1 1/4 cups for high altitude)
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cubed small
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Large granule sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients through vanilla extract and gently toss until combined. Pour filling into prepared pie crust (ya’ll known mine was store bought). Dot cubes of butter over filling. Brush edges of crust with egg wash and top with second pie crust. Be sure to secure edges of crust to prevent filling spilling over. Brush remainder of crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet to catch any filling overflow. You know that saying less is more? Well you would never think it about pie, but it is 100% true when it comes to filling. I overstuffed the shit out of my pie and had an oozy, ugly mess that tasted delicious, but made me sad to look at. Food blogging failure. I’m posting a picture of it anyway because it’s real life and I always double the delicious ingredients in every recipe. #glutton and also #gluttonforpunishment, cleaning burnt strawberry-rhubarb sugar goop off the bottom of an oven while on vacation is super lame. Learn from my mistakes and use the baking sheet. Collar with foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Decrease temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling. Allow to cool before cutting.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars
(Recipe adapted from Sift & Whisk)

FOR THE COMPOTE
2 cups ½-inch rhubarb slices*
2 cups strawberry slices
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE COOKIE BASE
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

To make the compote, toss strawberries and rhubarb with sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and vanilla. Cook over medium heat in a saucepan until rhubarb is soft and juice has thickened, about 6-8 minutes (I was slightly disappointed in the color of my compote and added red food coloring at this point, I’m a cheater). Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prepare the oatmeal crust.

To make the crust and assemble, preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper and grease with butter, allowing ½ inch overhang on each end to assist you in lifting the bars out of the pan.

Whisk together dry ingredients through nutmeg and set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat butter for 2 minutes until smooth. Add sugars and beat until fluffy, approximately 3 minutes, being sure to pause and scrape the bowl. With the mixer turned to low, add eggs one at time. Add vanilla, mix until just combined.

On low speed, add dry mixture, then oats. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, making sure the dry ingredients and oats are evenly incorporated.

Press ¾ of the prepared dough into your greased and lined baking pan. Freeze remaining dough for 15-20 minutes. Pour strawberry-rhubarb compote over dough, using an offset spatula to spread evenly. Crumble remaining chilled dough over compote, leaving space for fruit to peak through.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until top is golden brown and compote is bubbling. Allow bars to fully cool on a wire rack before cutting. Use parchment to lift bars out of pan and place on a cutting board to cut into 24 servings.

*I ran short on rhubarb and just supplemented extra strawberries, I also doubled the recipe leaving me a delicious topping for vanilla ice cream and toast.

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