A few years ago, I read novelist Barbara Kingsolver's inspiring book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's a story documenting the year her family spent eating home-grown, local food in southern Appalachia. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. There are few books I would consider reading more than once, but this book is one of them. It's extremely thought provoking and will leave you questioning what you thought you knew about our how our food makes it to our plate. This book transformed my thought process in terms of where my food comes from and how it is grown. I began seeking out farmers markets, and in my attempt to support local farmers, I also discovered just how delicious produce can be in season at it's peak. There is something deeply satisfying about strolling along tables overflowing with produce on a Saturday morning. Iced tea in hand, filling my tote bag with sweet strawberries in June or bright red heirloom tomatoes in late summer, I seek out the best of what my community has to offer.
In addition to my farmers market trips, I have been wanting to join a CSA for some time. This winter, I bought a share at Connors Farm and have been eagerly awaiting the first pickup. Rhubarb and strawberries are in season here in Massachusetts and I was happy to come home with both. I began playing around with the idea of combining strawberries and rhubarb into a crisp. I also got a beautiful jar of deep amber honey from my first pickup and wanted to incorporate this as well. Rhubarb and strawberries are commonly paired together in desserts for their sweet and tart combination.
In this version, I used orange juice and zest to give the fruit a little pop. I also combined pecans to the traditional crumb topping mixture. This is a rustic, messy, not too perfect dessert in it's own right. The juicy strawberries and rhubarb create a sweet red syrupy liquid and that's just fine with me, because it pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream or thick Greek yogurt. I think this is even better the next day and actually prefer this crumble cold. Try it this way and you'll see what I mean. It has time in the refrigerator to thicken up a bit and the orange flavor really comes through.
~Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Crumble Recipe~
1 quart strawberries (4 cups) cut into quarters
1 large rhubarb stalk (1 cup) cut lengthwise and again into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp orange zest
juice from 1/2 orange (a bit shy of 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp butter for greasing pan
1/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup butter
2 tbsp natural cane sugar
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter. Place strawberries and rhubarb into the pan. Drizzle with honey, coating evenly. To make the topping, pulse the pecans in a food processor. You could also chop these and mix ingredients by hand. Add in the flour, oats, sugar. Finally, add butter in pieces, pulsing until just until it is combined. Transfer the topping mixture evenly over the filing. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling around the edges and the topping is golden. Let cool for a bit if you are choosing to serve it warm. (Note-the fruit cooks off a good amount of liquid. Refrigerating the crisp will thicken it up). Serves 6.
"Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they're missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven. The choreography of many people working in one kitchen is, by itself, a certain definition of family, after people have made their separate ways home to be together."-Kingsolver