If you saw a Match ad seeking "Sugar and spice, and unsalted butter would be nice" in the past few months, I apologize; it wasn't the perfect fifty-shades-of-sweet man, it was my spatula. See, I've been undergoing a bit of a nutrition makeover, cutting out almost everything that didn't at one point swim in open water or sit in organic dirt, so my poor spatula doesn't see much action these days. When I came across a bunch of shiny stalks of rhubarb at a farmer's market yesterday, I knew it was time.
See, now that I've kind of reset my tastebuds, I can't settle for any old dessert when I indulge. No, it has to be special. And what could be more special than simple, homemade rhubarb crumble, served straight from the oven with a dollop of fresh cream, and enjoyed in the perfect fading light of a warm summer's evening? The fireflies even obliged with a light show and Brooklyn muted its sirens, barks, and cries long enough to allow a little space to savor ...
I've always loved rhubarb. I remember pulling thick rubbery stalks from the field next to the chicken shed at my grandmother's, and dipping stubby raw chunks in the sugar bowl while Nana set the rest bubbling on the range for us to spoon onto fresh soda bread later that evening.
I also remember the twenty-one-year-old me, not long enough in New York to have a gynecologist, but long enough to be pregnant. Young and stupid and aching for home ... and rhubarb. I lived in the Bronx and didn't know about farmer's markets or specialty stores or Google searches; I just knew that my growing belly needed rhubarb to complete its work and no-one in America even knew what rhubarb was. And then one day, my friend Mary came home from her job waitressing at an Irish bar in the city, with a bunch of rhubarb under her arm that she had charmed the chef into sourcing for her... for me. If I was an actress and needed to tap a personal moment of exquisite joy to convey the bliss of walking into the light/sleeping with Don Draper, I would access the overwhelming, pure happiness I experienced at the sight of that bunch of comfort food. I will never forget dipping chunks of stubby rhubarb in sugar while we waited for the rest to stew on the stove. My friend Mary is pregnant right now, and I sorely wish I could show up at her door in Kildare with a bunch of rhubarb flowers. Instead, I am eating an extra portion, just for her, and sending a little happy wish her way on the back of a firefly's wings.
Quick and easy rhubarb crumble:
Chop rhubarb into thumb-long stubs and add to an oven-proof dish along with a few tablespoons of water and a handful of sugar. Rub a couple of handfuls of flour with some chopped up unsalted butter and a handful of sugar. (Sorry, I'm not trying to appear all I-just-toss-ingredients-together-and-it-works; I just eyeball everything based on how much rhubarb I have.) Add oats if you have some in the press. Preheat oven to 350 deg F and let it simmer and bubble for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Just add tart-sweet memories ... or make some with this dessert.