A crisp for all seasons

How’s this year been for you? Yeah, about the same for me. And most everyone else too, it seems. And if something terrible hasn’t befallen you personally, it almost certainly has someone close to you.

But here at Food if by Land, we say to hell with that. No wallowing in recession-induced depression. Not when there is garden-fresh rhubarb to be celebrated.

The further we get into summer, the more the upside of this recession becomes apparent: the abundance of interest in home gardens, access to locally-grown produce, and doing more with less. Evidence that when the going gets rough, we don’t just adapt, we flourish. All we needed was a catalyst.

Take me, for example: this summer is the first time we’ve participated in a CSA and my desire to have a garden to complain about burns like ice cream on a Mojave Desert road (I live in a condo, so it’s not going to happen for awhile).

Getting my own garden is going to have to wait until we get a house, but my mom readily gives up as much of her massive piles of rhubarb as I want to take. The part of me that’s on a socially-conscious eating kick jumped at the opportunity, but the other half balked — I don’t know how to use rhubarb beyond strawberry-rhubarb pie (which I’ve actually never made). I certainly couldn’t think of any recipes that calls for it. (And why is that, anyway?)

When in doubt, make fruit crisp. If you have fruit you don’t know how to use — make a crisp. When friends need someone to listen and you don’t know what to say — make a crisp. When it’s been a downer kind of year and you don’t feel like giving up just yet — I say, make a crisp! If nothing else, it’s pretty hard to ruin, and if you share it you’ll probably make someone’s day.

My freezer offered half a bag of frozen dark cherries and another half bag of mixed berries. A few chops of the rhubarb and some butter and sugar later, and I had a crisp in the oven. It’s ridiculously easy. The fruit mixture is as forgiving as baking gets — any fruit that remotely holds its shape will do. I usually use peeled, chopped apples. You can try adding dried fruit — like raisins — to a mostly-fresh combination. It’s nice for stone fruit in spring, berries in summer, and apples in fall and winter.

Rhubarb-Cherry-Berry Crisp
Makes: ~8-10 servings; one 7″x11″ pan
Fruit Mixture Ingredients:
6 stalks fresh rhubarb, sliced into ~1″ chunks
1/2 bag frozen dark sweet cherries
1/2 bag frozen mixed berries (mine had blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flour

Crisp Topping Ingredients:
1 C oats (I prefer old-fashioned rolled oats, but quick-cooking oats work too)
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 C (one stick) butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all the fruit mixture ingredients. Spread evenly in a baking dish (I use a 7×11 casserole, but an oven-safe pan works, round, whatever you’ve got).
  3. In a bowl, combine the topping dry ingredients.
  4. Add butter to the dry ingredients and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs (I like to use a form to cream it, but other methods also will do fine).
  5. Spread topping over fruit mix.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until fruit is tender and bubbly.

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