Growing up in the rural Midwest, my family grew a lot of vegetables. Our garden, neat rows that easily spanned a quarter-acre, grew everything from tomatoes and potatoes to trellised grapes and row upon row of the sweetest corn imaginable. It was a lot of work, and as a kid, I’m not sure I appreciated many of the things my mother lovingly grew (and we begrudgingly weeded and harvested!).
In the spring, before it got too hot, we’d try to be the first one up in the morning. Whoever snuck outside while the rest of the family was asleep got first dibs on the freshest, sweetest strawberries. We’d pick them for breakfast, but the tastiest ones usually never even made it to the basket. To my mind, the best berry is always one slightly warm and tasting faintly of dirt. In the summer, we’d pick bag upon bag of green beans, which we painstakingly snapped in front of the television: my mom’s idea of a bribe. And in the fall, if we were lucky, there would be pumpkins.
Those foods are wonderful, and I eat them a lot. But they don’t fill me with memories. I can go to the grocery store in or out of season and find strawberries, green beans, pumpkin puree. When I want to eat nostalgia, I crave what I can only find seasonally, the standout flavors of a Midwestern childhood: bright asparagus, astringent persimmon, musky morel mushrooms still smelling of the forest floor. And rhubarb. Tangy rhubarb whose bright red stalks are reminiscent of celery, so tantalizing and so, so tart! Back then, we thought it needed strawberries and cupfuls of sugar to offset its sourness.
We were wrong. Rhubarb is a center-stage fruit. This garden gem deserves a place to shine. And unlike many of my other favorite flavors, you don’t have to wait until it comes back in season. Today, even if I can’t find fresh rhubarb in the store, I can find it in the freezer aisle. So any time I'm feeling nostalgic, we can have a sweet memory.
Pie is usually the standard treatment for rhubarb, but it’s a commitment. I adore pies, yet find that making crust is often too much work and cleanup. And store-bought crusts are often full of ingredients we’d rather not eat. So around here, pie means “special occasion.” Crisp recipes, on the other hand, are perfect for weeknight treats and unexpected guests. They are a snap to put together, cook while everyone is eating, and are as tasty cold as they are warm. Plus, you’ll dirty a lot fewer dishes. And that’s always a good thing.
Bonus: this rhubarb crisp recipe is totally vegan! I love when a recipe is adaptable for many different food requirements and preferences. If you’re gluten-free, by all means, replace the flour with your preferred 1-to-1 flour. And if you’re eating paleo, you can cut out the flour and oats and replace them with more nuts and/or almond flour.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to...
One-Bowl Rhubarb Crisp
4 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom or nutmeg
2 16 oz bags frozen rhubarb, thawed
¼ cup cane sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon lime or orange juice
1 teaspoon dried citrus zest or 1 Tablespoon fresh zest (lime or orange is great here!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix flour, sugar, and zest together in a small, microwave safe bowl. In oiled 9x13 baking dish, mix rhubarb and juice together, then coat with sugar mixture.
Melt coconut oil, if necessary, in the sugar bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. Pour the topping over the rhubarb and bake until the topping is browned and the rhubarb is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
Serve with whipped coconut cream or vegan vanilla ice cream if desired.