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Rhubarb, the First Fruit of the Year


Though technically rhubarb is a vegetable, when it's baked up all tender and sweet, and smothered in crust and whipped cream, it really doesn't matter what you call it. :) Famously paired up with the next fruit on the seasonal timetable - the strawberry of June - rhubarb is really very good on its own. In fact, I'd almost be willing to say I prefer it on its own.

My grandfather grew rhubarb in his backyard and I remember sitting on the back step, dipping stalks of freshly cut rhubarb in a dixie cup of sugar. Oh goodness, that was a treat! I also remember the rhubarb he'd stew and tuck between layers of impossibly perfect pie crust, the top lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I've never been very good at making pastry, so it is my summer goal to learn how to make his crust. To my mind, there's no better way to keep up with the delicious summer produce than with a parade of pies and turnovers. And how great it would be to stock the freezer with a supply of homemade pastry? What a great way to get a head start on your Thanksgiving pies!

But let me get to the point of this post which is to share the recipe for the scrumptious rhubarb dessert pictured above. It is actually called a grunt (which made my boys giggle), and I found it in How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson. It seemed too impossibly easy, but it came out so, so good. A keeper for sure.

Rhubarb Grunt

  • For the filling:
    • About 1 1/2 pounds fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar depending upon preference and sourness of fruit
    • scant 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing dish
  • For the topping:
    • 1 cup cake flour
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 375 F. and place a baking sheet inside. Spread chopped rhubarb over bottom of an 8 x 12, buttered baking dish - sprinkle with sugar, coating evenly and dot with butter. For the topping, sift the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Gently stir in the cream, making a sticky dough. Spread this mixture over the fruit in handfuls, covering the top evenly. Place dish on sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling.

I served it with whipped cream; it would also be great with vanilla ice cream. (Especially, this kind.)

So don't forget to check the produce section at your local grocer's for those long red stalks. Even better if you can get them from a local farmer - or your own backyard!