When I was a freshman in high school, I auditioned for the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production (that year it was Pirates of Penzance) and I snagged the role of “a villager,” which involved lurking on stage in an ugly dress, chatting sotto voce with other villagers about the activities of the more interesting characters. The director (fresh out of drama school—she knew her stuff) told us that if we all spoke the word “rhubarb,” over and over, we would collectively sound like we were making intelligent conversation.
I’ve used the rhubarb trick in many theatrical crowd scenes (and at an occasional cocktail party) since then, but that vegetable had otherwise never touched my life until yesterday. Everywhere I looked on the internet, people were talking about rhubarb. They were saying that rhubarb is a) in season, b) considered by some to be a herb, by others to be a fruit, and c) it’s best when it’s skinny and very red, as opposed to fat and kinda green.
A lot of people suggest that the normal thing to do with rhubarb is to throw it in a pie with some strawberries, but I, having never been accused of normalcy, decided to change that recipe up. Try this variation on a rhubarb dessert, and if you don’t like it, just go look on the internet for an alternative. I’m telling you, everyone is talking rhubarb. The whole world sounds like a bunch of Gilbert and Sullivan villagers.
Rhubarb Apple Crumble
1 tablespoon butter, for greasing the pan
1 pound trimmed rhubarb, cut into ¾ inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 Fuji or other sweet apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
¼ cup port wine
½ cup almonds
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut itnto small chunks
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with the butter.
2. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb and apples. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and corn starch and then add it to the rhubarb and apples and mix well. Add the port and mix again. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the baking pan.
3. Place the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add the flour, oats, granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and process just until the mixture resembles small peas and starts to hold together, about 20 seconds. Spread the topping evenly over the rhubarb mixture.
4. Bake the crumble until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 50-55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.