What's For Dessert: Rhubarb Crisp

One benefit of working in the publishing world (aside from the huuuuge paycheck, ha ha ha!) is that typically during the summer months publishing companies offer a "Summer Friday" program in which you work extra hours over a two-week period to get every other Friday off during the summer months. I'm pretty sure this is a perk due to the East Coast tradition of leaving early on Fridays to beat the traffic when heading off to one's summer home in the Hamptons or similar for the weekend during the summer months. When I first started my career in publishing, the Summer Friday program ran from just after Memorial Day up to Labor Day; with the arrival of the economic downtown and various merges, the program was chiseled away at until only a few select Fridays were offered, and just half-Fridays at that. This year, the every-other full-Friday program is back in action, along with an every Friday half-day option. I thought long and hard about which option I would choose, and opted to go with one of the every-other full-Friday off schedules. It's a tiny perk (and we have to work the extra hours to make up for it, so it's not really a "free" Friday), but I'll take it if it means I can get a three-day weekend five times during the summer.

All this to say that my first summer Friday was two weeks ago, and D and I took advantage of my day off to make an overnight trip to Milwaukee, which is located three hours to the east. On Friday night we took in a Milwaukee Brewers game (which turned out to be a win against our former home team, the Philadelphia Phillies). On Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast, we made our way to the Cathedral Square Park East Town Farmers Market, where I picked up a lovely bunch of asparagus and two ruby-red bunches of rhubarb.

Though I typically pair rhubarb with strawberry in the desserts I have featured on this blog, I was ready to spotlight the tart flavor of rhubarb on its own. Mark Bittman's (The Minimalist) column published in the New York Times in 2010 titled "Rhubarb Crisp That Stands Up to Pie" totally caught my eye and I decided to give it a try. (Heh, anything that can get me out of making a pie crust...)

Long story short, this crisp is truly delicious. The tartness of the rhubarb is balanced (but not overwhelmed) with the addition of granulated sugar; the pecan-oat crisp topping is crunchy, sweet, savory, and just buttery enough to make it taste a bit indulgent without feeling too guilty about it.

If rhubarb season hasn't totally waned where you live (it has only recently become available up here in Northern Wisconsin), you have to give this recipe a try. Or at least be sure to file it away for next year!

Rhubarb Crisp (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

5 cups sliced rhubarb (cut into ~1/2 to 1-inch pieces)
1/4 cup granulated raw sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch baking dish and set aside.
2. Stir together the rhubarb, granulated raw sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour into the prepped baking pan.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, add together the brown sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and butter. Process for 30-60 seconds, or until the mixture resembles small peas and just begins to come together. Add in the oats and pecans and pulse until just combined. Spoon the mixture over top the rhubarb, covering it evenly.
4. Bake in the oven 45-50 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling. Let cool before serving.

 (adapted from this Mark Bittman recipe)