Time for rhubarb -- that quaint, tart fruit that looks like blushing celery. Botanically, it really is a vegetable, a member of the buckwheat family, but it has legions of passionate fans for its delectable role in desserts and preserves. If you like it fresh, now is its season.
Here's an old-fashioned-style dessert using a favorite combination of rhubarb with strawberries. Strawberry Rhubarb Amaretti Crisp is an all-American concoction, combining traditions that have a New England flavor.
The early colonists were fond of pies and other forms of fruit desserts baked with simple crusts. The topping in this recipe has the distinctive macaroon crunch and taste of amaretti cookies, reflecting the influence of Italian immigrants throughout the Northeast.
This original recipe was developed by chef Cindy Mushet, author of "Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style" (Simon & Schuster).
Strawberry Rhubarb Amaretti Crisp
(Preparation about 25 minutes, cooking time 40 to 50 minutes)
1 quart (2 pint baskets) ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, quartered, patted dry
1 pound rhubarb (about 3 1/2 cups), washed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter (see note)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup toasted almonds (see note)
1 and 2/3 cups coarsely crushed amaretti cookies (see note)
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Preheat oven to 350 F; position oven rack in center of oven. Lightly butter a shallow, 2-quart baking dish.
To make fruit filling: In large mixing bowl, combine prepared strawberries and rhubarb with lemon juice. Sprinkle sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon over fruit, toss until covered evenly. Pour fruit mixture into prepared baking dish.
To make amaretti topping: In large mixing bowl, combine butter, flour and sugar using hand-held pastry blender. Add butter, toasted almonds and crushed amaretti. Mix well.
Spread amaretti topping over fruit filling. Bake in 350 F oven 40 to 45 minutes or until fruit is bubbly; rhubarb will be tender when pierced. If topping becomes too brown before rhubarb is tender, cover lightly with foil. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if desired.
Makes 8 servings.
Note: Always use unsalted butter when baking, to let the natural flavor of the dessert come out. To toast almonds: Spread chopped almonds in a baking pan in 350 F oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool completely. To crush amaretti cookies: 4.4 ounces amaretti cookies yields about 2 cups crushed. Place cookies in zip-locked bag, crush with rolling pin.
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