We used to have a rhubarb plant growing in the garden and I remember eating a lot of strawberry rhubarb pies as a child. Rhubarb is this funny looking little (well, large and leafy, actually) plant that greatly resembles celery…except it’s red and fairly bitter. My mom LOVES it stewed with a little sugar and perhaps some brightly colored fruits we call strawberries.
[Side note: I feel like I talk about my mother a lot…it would seem that she greatly influences my cooking. Pity she doesn’t read my blog. Mom, hello ? You there ?
I hear the crickets, too. Oh well – I suppose she doesn’t need to read my blog because she gets the real deal…part of the benefits of living with your family. They eat your treats (and you don’t feel awkward eating EVERYTHING)].
In any case, to continue my original train of thought, my mom loves rhubarb and therefore purchased a bunch from the farmstand a few days ago. Today, upon leaving me alone in the house and looking at the rainy weather, said, “Liz, please do something about this rhubarb and these strawberries I got from TJs. I have pie crust in the freezer if you don’t want to bother making some, but I really don’t want this rhubarb kicking around the kitchen anymore.” Yes everyone, the rhubarb is now my problem and I have to “do something about it.” Sigh. Such a burden.
I knew she wanted a pie. Or if she didn’t want it, she was thinking about it. Alas, I’m not a huge pie person…unless it’s a cream pie, a tart, or Eva’s Shoofly Pie, which I have yet to make but for which I purchased more molasses about a week ago. What to do…what to do…
I know ! What about little squares ? Like raspberry or lemon squares but with a strawberry rhubarb filling ? I like this idea. I like it a lot. Upon making this epic decision, I set about creating this dessert. For the crumb, I used the same recipe as the one found on my raspberry squares recipe with a few minor changes due to a lack of ingredients…
Just in time for June, strawberries, and the season of rhubarb, here’s a quick dessert that should convert rhubarb skeptics into believers. [Hear that, mom ?] :)
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces – I used about 5 medium stalks
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, quartered (you can ALWAYS add more – I only had about 2 cups worth)
1/2 lemon, squeezed and zested
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp (tasting margin)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
Throw the rhubarb, strawberries, zest and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat. Rhubarb contains a fair amount of water (as do strawberries) so you don’t need to add any other liquid.
Stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom. Cook until the fruit is tender – the strawberries will start to breakdown and the rhubarb should be intact but easy to puncture or pull apart.
In another bowl, combine the cornstarch and the sugar, mixing together to combine. The cornstarch acts as a thickener so that your compote won’t run later when placed between the cookie layers. The little starch molecules swell and expand when placed in contact with liquid, making a pasty consistency. I used two healthy tablespoons, so if you increase your fruit amount, don’t be afraid to add more cornstarch. Let it boil until quite thick. Set aside to cool.
Oatmeal crumble :
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups oatmeal
Preheat the oven to 350F. Take out a large rectangular pan – I’m not sure what the dimensions of mine were…but probably 9×13 as that’s standard. You have two options – either serve theses bars like a crumble and just grease the pan – which is delicious – or line it with wax paper to allow for easy removal and cutting. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until nice and creamy. If you are using a whisk – have at that lard !
Add the sugar and cream again until the mixture begins to lighten in color. NOTE: I did not have 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar in my pantry. I used about 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (all that I had) and then added abotu 1/4 cup of white sugar and a nice blob of molasses. In total, the measuring cup contained about 1 1/4 cups worth of sweetness. If you are in a pinch, mixing white sugar and molasses will essentially get you brown sugar, but I find the sweetness to be more concentrated so I just use less of the new combination.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the baking soda. I think a dash of some spice nice as well, perhaps a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves would be tasty. Add the flour slowly (to avoid flour clouds !) and mix well.
Add 2 cups of oatmeal to the mixture and stir. My little mixer took on a rather grumpy tone adn refused to properly incorporate the oats, so I just mixed them by hand with a spatula and a spoon. The batter should be fairly crumble but still like a cookie. Press about 2/3 of batter into the bottom of the pan, working from the middle out. Be sure to keep the layer an even thickness all the way out to the edges so the cook times aren’t wonky. Top this mixture with the compote made earlier. Again, spread evenly ! Use that spatula responsibly.
Add the final cup of oats to the remaining batter and mix until very crumbly. Sprinkle this overtop the pan and don’t be afraid to use your fingers. Getting dirty in the kitchen…it happens. All the time. The upside ? You get to nibble the dough. Who doesn’t love oatmeal cookie dough ? Win-win situation, if you ask me.
Bake until the top is golden brown – as you can see in the photo below, the color doesn’t change much, so you have to watch this one in the oven. I cooked mine for about 20 minutes.
Let the bars cool before cutting, or else you’ll just end up with a big gooey mess. I suggest serving them warm with ice cream, but they are just as fabulous on their own with a cup of tea. Happy June and bon appétit ! :)