Kim Power Stilson interviewed me on her TalkWorthy Radio Show (on Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio) last week, and asked me what the first thing I ever cooked was. Of course I couldn’t remember on live radio the muffins made from Jiffy pancake mix, the huckleberry pie, or the Apple Lump Gunk Cake—all made with the help of my brother and my Easy Bake Oven; I could only think of rhubarb crisp. Rhubarb grew in my backyard with nary a thought in its direction, but it came up every year. My mother of course warned me to never eat the leaves, and then encouraged me to get creative. She must have given me an idea of how to make a crisp from whatever ingredients she could list off from the top of her head, and then sent me on my way.
I remember making quite a few of them over the years. Knowing I could make a dessert by myself, and out of the plant that grew up like a weed amongst our tulips, no less, was a pretty empowering thought. So thanks, mom, for giving me free rein in the kitchen like that.
This recipe is a little better than what I was making when I was ten, but only just.
I used a small beet to color the sugar to keep the color of the rhubarb bright while it’s cooking. If you don’t want to bother with the beet, that’s fine, too.
1 small beet, peeled and cut
2/3 cup of sugar, divided
2 pounds rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick (112 g) cold butter
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, combine the beet*, 1/3 cup of sugar, and a 3 tablespoons of water. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and let simmer until most of the water has boiled out, and a syrup remains in the bottom. Remove the beets.
2. Mix the red sugar syrup with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and the beet slices in a large bowl or in the saucepan where you cooked the sugar with the beets (if it’s big enough). Pour the rhubarb into the bottom of a medium baking dish.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together flours, brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the mixture. Mix on medium low until the butter is fully incorporated. Pull the mixture together with your hands and then crumble over the top of the rhubarb. Place baking dish on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender and the juices are bubbling. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
*If you don’t want to use a beet, simply skip to step 2, and add in the full 2/3 cup of sugar to the rhubarb.