Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Rhubarb is the culinary equivalent of the groundhog. When its fuscia stalks emerge in the markets, you know that spring is nearly here. Luckily, rhubarb’s best friend, the strawberry, also make an early spring debut in California, jostling for attention with the well-established lemons and oranges crowding the supermarket shelves. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I’ve combined all of these seasonal goodies in this dessert recipe. Strawberries, rhubarb and lemon muddle together in this impossibly bright cobbler, while a crumbly sweet dough flecked with lemon zest attempts to keep a lid on the bubbling fruit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Serves 6

For the filling:
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Make the filling:
Combine all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Make the topping:
Combine flour, sugar baking powder, salt and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until dough resembles coarse meal. Add cream and egg; pulse until dough comes together. Pulse in lemon zest.

Spoon strawberries into a baking pan or individual ramekins. Drop spoonfuls of the topping over the fruit. Bake in a pre-heated 350 F. oven until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbly, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The flavors will develop as the cobbler cools. Serve with creme fraiche.

Rhubarb Trifle with Almond Macarons and Vanilla Cream

Rhubarb Trifle with Almond Macarons and Vanilla Cream

Rhubarb Trifle Bowl

Hardy and dependable, rhubarb is one of the first gifts to emerge from the springtime garden. Following winter it’s a welcome sight, and eagerly put to use in our kitchen. Simply prepared with sugar, it makes a lovely compote that, if not closely guarded, is quickly gobbled up before it can be put to further use. However, with some advance planning and self discipline, rhubarb compote can be dressed up even further, making a lovely addition to a trifle. Trifles are fun to assemble and showcase beautiful layers of fruit and cream when presented in a glass. In this case chunky pink rhubarb is layered between ripples of vanilla infused cream and whipped cream. Almond macarons replace the traditional sponge, adding a chewy nutty texture to this luxurious dessert.

Rhubarb Trifle with Almond Macarons and Vanilla Cream
Serves 8

For the almond macarons:

2 egg whites
1/2 cup superfine sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1 cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Beat the egg whites in a bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, beating until peaks are stiff and glossy. Mix in vanilla extract. Grind almonds in bowl of a food processor with 2 tablespoons sugar until almonds are very finely ground. Fold into egg whites. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the egg mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in oven until golden brown, 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Makes about 2 dozen.

For the rhubarb:

2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2″ pieces
3/4 cup sugar

Toss rhubarb and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Cover and cook rhubarb until very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

For the vanilla cream:

4 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

6 strawberries, hulled and quartered

Whisk egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat milk and vanilla bean in another saucepan until milk begins to boil. Stir 2 tablespoons milk into eggs. Slowly add remaining milk, stirring constantly. Heat the milk and eggs until nearly boiling, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat. The milk will thicken to heavy cream consistency and thickly coat the wooden spoon. Do not let boil. Remove from heat and strain through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the custard. Cool completely.

Before assembly, whip 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in a bowl of mixer until beginning to thicken. Add 2 tablespoons sugar to cream and continue to beat until peaks form. Remove 1/2 of whipped cream and set aside. Gently fold the vanilla cream into the remaining whipped cream.

Assemble trifle:
Spoon a thin layer of the rhubarb into the bottom of a glass serving bowl or individual glasses. Crumble 1/3 of the macaroons over the rhubarb. Cover with a layer of the vanilla whipped cream. Top with 1/2 of the remaining rhubarb. Crumble 1/3 of the macaroons over the rhubarb. Cover with a layer of the vanilla whipped cream. Top with remaining rhubarb. Crumble remaining macaroons over rhubarb. Spoon the reserved whipped cream over the top of the trifle. Dot the top of the trifle with fresh strawberries. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. The trifle may be assembled up to 4 hours before serving. The longer it sits, the softer it will become.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

Strawberry Rhubarb

Early strawberries and rhubarb are a gift of spring, reflecting the essence of season and simple, fresh food. My inspiration for this dessert comes from Denmark, which does not have the luxury of a California-style springtime. After a long, dark winter, spring is eagerly greeted in Scandinavia, but the early season can still be bleak. Strawberries are not yet seasonal, but hardy, dependable rhubarb is. The Danes gallantly make the most of what they have and, with characteristic minimalism, harvest the rhubarb and use it in simple preparations that herald the onset of the spring season in their Nordic kitchens. A traditional preparation is a simple, sweet soup. The astringent rhubarb is cooked in water with vanilla sugar and served with cream. As simple as it may sound, this dish is a celebration of season and a comforting favorite, pleasing adults and children alike.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup is a similar compote consisting of the season’s rhubarb and early strawberries we are luckily experiencing in Northern California. I do not add any water, because I like the soup thick and intensely flavored with the rhubarb and strawberries. Sugar is added to smooth the tartness and a touch of vanilla is added for extra depth.  Allow the soup to cool to room temperature and serve either with crème fraîche, lightly sweetened whipped cream or simply drizzled with heavy cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lb. rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled, halved
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heavy cream or crème fraîche for garnish

Combine rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a large pot. Cover slightly. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb and strawberries give off their juices and rhubarb is very tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Serve in bowls. Drizzle with heavy cream or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Summer Solstice Danish-Style

Denmark is the land of the (nearly) midnight sun. The sun sets just before 11:00 in the evening, only to begin its ascent again in the wee hours of the morning. In a land where the winters are long and very dark, it is no wonder that celebrations, and even a God or two, have been delegated to give thanks and perhaps curry favor with the fiery powers that be. Summer Solstice, or Sankt Hans Aften (which means the eve of St. John the Baptist Day), is the height of these jubilations, as it celebrates the longest day of the year. Bonfires are lit, and food and drink are plentiful, as the Vikings of yesteryear, and in spirit, party and feast until dawn.

This year we will attempt our own celebration on a nearby beach.  We will light a bonfire and have a picnic dinner as the sun sets.  It is likely that we will forego the authentic tradition of burning an effigy over the fire, as that may not go over too well with the local residents and could quite possibly get us arrested.  (Proper solstice tradition would have a straw witch burned over the fire.  This symbolizes the riddance of problems, worries, and threats from people’s lives.)

Food typically associated with the solstice celebration is simple picnic fare: grilled fish or meat, fresh boiled local crayfish (which can be a party unto itself) and remoulade sauce, potato salad, green salad.  All of this would be accompanied, Viking-style, by beer, shnapps and wine throughout the evening.


For dessert, something making use of the fleeting yet prolific Danish strawberry season would be appropriate and always welcome.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Serves 8-10

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Cut in the butter, and work it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Refrigerate until use.

For the fruit:
4 large or 6 small rhubarb stalks, washed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Gently toss rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a large bowl.
Arrange evenly in a rectangular baking dish.
Cover the fruit with topping.
Bake in oven until rhubarb is tender and the topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.