- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

This year, I’ve teamed up with a local chef to give cooking classes in a nearby New England town. It has been an eye-opening experience.

As the executive head of a large restaurant, my pal has a whole staff to help him: someone to order groceries, several people to help prepare food and a dishwasher to tackle dirty pots and pans. As a home chef, I am in charge of shopping, cooking and cleaning in my own kitchen.

My cooking colleague has access to so many extra hands, so his dishes are sometimes more complex or time-consuming than mine, and his recipes often yield enough portions to feed a small army. As his teaching partner, I’ve taken on the responsibility of downsizing and streamlining his recipes.

Take a delicious rhubarb strawberry crumble we served recently at a spring class. The original crumble served 30, but my revision feeds four to six. I made other changes, too, replacing cornstarch with flour as a thickener and adjusting the baking time for home ovens. The crumble turned out to be one of the most popular dishes we taught.

Sliced rhubarb and strawberries, tossed with sugar and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, are baked under a coating of almonds, oats, flour, sugar and butter. When done, the crumble boasts a hot, bubbling fruit layer covered with a crisp golden topping.

Served warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream, it makes a versatile dessert to serve when entertaining. It’s perfect as the finale for a sit-down dinner party or as an end to a backyard cookout. And this dessert offers another advantage to home cooks: It can be made several hours ahead and simply popped into the oven for a quick reheating when needed.

Matt and Betty’s rhubarb strawberry crumble

FRUIT FILLING:

Butter for greasing baking dish

1 pounds rhubarb, cut into -inch pieces

pound (1 cups) hulled, halved strawberries

cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

teaspoon ground nutmeg

TOPPING:

cup flour

cup light brown sugar

cup oats (preferably not quick-cooking oats)

cup sliced almonds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced

Mint sprigs for garnish, optional

1 quart vanilla ice cream

Butter a shallow, medium baking dish.

To make the fruit filling, toss together the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg; add to large bowl with fruit. Toss well to coat. Spoon the fruit mixture and any seasonings remaining in bowl into the prepared baking dish; spread evenly.

To make the topping, mix together flour, brown sugar, oats and almonds in a medium bowl. Add butter, and rub it into dry ingredients, using your fingertips, until mixture resembles pea-size clumps. Pat mixture evenly over fruit.

Bake crumble on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven until fruit mixture is bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove and cool 10 minutes. (Crumble can be prepared 6 hours ahead; leave at cool room temperature. Reheat in preheated 350-degree oven to warm, about 15 minutes.) Garnish center of crumble with a small bouquet of mint sprigs, if desired. Serve each portion warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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