Archive for the ‘Crisps and Crumbles’ Category

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Some days it’s hard for a chanteuse not to quote  musical comedies. I was reminded recently of a line from The Sound of Music to the effect that when God closes a door he opens a window.

Here’s what happened: I became annoyed with myself a couple of weeks ago. I had been eyeing my neighbor Dennis’s patch of rhubarb with an eye to making rhubarb-apple crisp. (Dennis is always very nice about my incursions into his rhubarb.)

Unfortunately, I waited a little too long to harvest the rhubarb. When I lifted up the rhubarb leaves, I found that the stalks had finally given up the ghost and become soggy. The rhubarb door was closed for this year.

And then … I went to the grocery store and saw my window: the first cranberries of the season! So I decided to pair them with the apples instead of rhubarb. Personally, I think this is an even better combination than the rhubarb-apple one. The color is deep and appealing, thanks to the cranberries. And the apples tone down the cranberries ever so slightly; the crisp is tart but not too tart. The cranberries still dominate since three cups of them are denser than three cups of apples.

Of course, I imagine God has better things to do than entertain me with fruit. But I’m thanking him/her/it anyway, just in case. Come to think of it, this would make a lovely dessert for Thanksgiving Day……

Ruby had never encountered cranberries before.

The Crisp


3 cups (12 ounces) cranberries
3 cups sliced apples (core but don’t bother to peel unless you’re fussy—use a fairly sturdy apple; I used Baldwins)
3/4 cup white sugar plus 1/2 cup later
2 pinches salt
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats (regular, not steel cut or quick)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl toss together the cranberries, the apples, 3/4 cup sugar, the first pinch of salt, and the lemon juice. Spread them in the bottom of a 1-1/2- or 2-quart baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the flour, the remaining white sugar, the brown sugar, the oats, the cinnamon, and the second pinch of salt. Cut or rub in the butter until you have coarse crumbs. My preference is rubbing it in since I’m a tactile cook. Gently spread this combination over the fruit mixture. (It will be a little messy!)

Bake the crisp until it is brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with the topping of your choice—cream, whipped cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt. Serves 6.

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Loving Local Peach Crumble

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

I thought I’d get one more quick post in during the Loving Local Blogathon. I could go on and on about all the reasons for loving fresh, local peaches—but do I really have to?
They’re fresh, local peaches, for goodness’ sake!
Nothing is sweeter, juicier, or more beautiful. Their delicate consistency embodies the fleeting summer days. Their color reflects the August sun.

I am actually a little loath to cook them since they’re so wonderful raw, but yesterday for variety I threw together a crumble. I love crumbles; they’re easier than pies and lighter than crisps. 

Make this, and you too will Love Local.

This post is part of the Loving Local Blogathon, taking place from August 22 to 28 as part of Massachusetts Farmers’ Market Week.
Hosted by this very blog with help from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Mass Farmers Markets, the Blogathon celebrates the flavors of the Bay State and raises awareness of the bounty all around us. 

It also raises funds for Mass Farmers Markets, a charitable nonprofit organization that helps farmers markets throughout Massachusetts. Please support this worthy cause if you can; here’s the donation link.

A note about the spices: personally, I’m not a big fan of peaches and ginger as a combination. I think the ginger overwhelms the peaches. So if you’re like me, you may omit the ginger. I include it for all those peachy ginger fans out there in the blogosphere.
5 to 6 cups peach slices
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger (optional)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fruit in a 9-inch pie pan. (Make sure you have a cookie sheet under the pan; those peaches can be juicy!)
Sprinkle on the sugar and spices. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with knives or a pastry blender. (Your hands will do in a pinch.) Add the brown sugar and mix again until crumbly. 

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the peaches, pressing down lightly. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serves 6 to 8. This crumble may be served warm or cold.

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Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!

Monday, June 15th, 2009

rhubarb stalksweb


It’s getting warm in New England so this will be my last rhubarb post for this year. Sigh………

For my grand finale I thought I’d explore the word “rhubarb” as well as the plant.


A friend recently asked me whether rhubarb didn’t have more than one meaning. I did a little research—and was he ever right! When you’ve said rhubarb, you’ve said a mouthful in more ways than one.


Other foods may enjoy one or two definitions beyond their edible ones. A peach is a pretty girl, and something peachy is just swell. We blow a raspberry to show disrespect. And spinach can mean “humbug” as part of the phrase “gammon and spinach” or all by itself, as in the immortal Irving Berlin lyric, “I say it’s spinach and the hell with it!”


Rhubarb, however, has so much personality that its figurative uses almost rival its culinary ones.

First of all, of course, rhubarb is a reddish, stringy plant that originated in
China. People either love or hate its strong, tart flavor. (I’m in the love camp, as you may have guessed!)

The genesis of the word “rhubarb” comes from its presence along the banks of the
Volga River in Siberia; it is a combination of “Rha” (the Greek word for the Volga) and the word “barbarum,” or barbarian. (Obviously those who named the plant were less than enthusiastic about it. I don’t find it at all barbaric.)


Beyond its meaning as food, rhubarb is a theatrical phrase used by centuries of actors in crowd scenes. In Shakespeare’s day and beyond, extras onstage would intone “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” to simulate muttering, particularly angry muttering. I like to think that the peasants coming after the monster with torches in the classic film Frankenstein were using the word, although I have no proof of this.


Perhaps because of its slightly harsh syllables rhubarb also connotes a fight, usually a spirited one. In the mid-20th century the word became attached to baseball. It was used most famously by colorful sportscaster Red Barber to describe an altercation on the field—between teams, between players and umpires, or between players and fans. Barber called Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, “the rhubarb patch.” Apparently, the Dodgers had a strong, tart flavor.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rhubarb is sometimes used to mean “nonsense.” (Perhaps Irving Berlin should have written, “I say it’s RHUBARB and the hell with it!”)


The word also describes low-level aircraft strafing in time of war (at least it did during World War II). And it was used centuries ago as an adjective to mean bitter or tart. The OED also lists related words, including “rhubarber,” which refers to an actor milling around in a crowd scene.


If I haven’t provided enough meanings for the word for you, the Keene Sentinel provided several more in a 2000 article titled “The Hidden Life of Rhubarb.”


I asked its author, columnist John Fladd, where he got so many of his rhubarb uses, and he referred me to Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Partridge must have been particularly inspired by rhubarb for he found many meanings for the word.


In the 19th century, Patridge wrote, the word was used vulgarly to refer to the genital region as in the expression (previously unfamiliar to me), “How’s your rhubarb coming up, Bill?”


It has also connoted a loan, a bill for payment, an advance on one’s wages and an area in the country (as a synonym for “the Sticks”). I guess I live in the Rhubarbs.


Finally, Fladd (citing Partridge) notes, “There is a Canadian phrase, ‘hitting the rhubarb,’ that means running one’s car off the road—‘You’d better not have another drink, Stanley, or you’ll hit the rhubarb.’”


Before I hit the rhubarb myself, I guess I should tuck a recipe into this post. It comes from my friend and editor at the West County Independent, Virginia Ray.


Ginny says, “I love the sweet/sourness of this crumble, which reminds me of picking rhubarb at my little farm in Pennsylvania, right from the garden, and transforming the bitterness to yummy-ness!”



Miss Ginny’s Rhubarb Crumble



2 pounds rhubarb (6 cups) cut into one-inch pieces

1/4 cup white or organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar




Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the rhubarb in a buttered Pyrex pie dish (a stainless or ceramic dish may be substituted, but don’t use aluminum as it will react with the rhubarb’s acidity).


Sprinkle on the white/organic sugar and cinnamon. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the butter and cut it in with knives or a pastry blender (your hands will do in a pinch). Add the brown sugar and mix again until crumbly.


Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the rhubarb, pressing down lightly. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serves 6 to 8. This crumble freezes well.