Rhubarb and Strawberry Crispy Crumble

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Crumble in kitchen crop

A chocolate dessert is fine on occasion, but we Pollans have always been enamored of any dessert with fruit inside. So it’s not surprising that some form of a crumble appears at just about every one of our family gatherings. One summer we departed from our classic apple crumble and experimented with all manner of fruit combinations, from peach-blueberry, to mango-strawberry, to pear-cranberry. We even tried a piña-colada crumble––an unlikely mix of banana, pineapple, and coconut––and like the others, it was delish. And yet, we must admit that the rhubarb-strawberry crumble holds a special place in our hearts, the fragrance alone broadcasts summer.

Rhubarb was used in China for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago, but when a new strain of rhubarb was introduced in England in 1837 it was the beginning of a passionate love affair. The Victorians became obsessed, and very quickly they were using it in everything from jams, jellies, pies, custards, fools, even savories. Soon rhubarb was as costly as such rare spices as cinnamon and saffron. But by the 1950s rhubarb had fallen out of favor, it was considered old-fashioned and a tad dowdy. It’s only in the last decade when chefs began using rhubarb in inventive ways, pairing it with braised chicken, as a tangy-sweet topping for fish, or as a spicy BBQ sauce for ribs, that this wonderfully sour vegetable (deemed a fruit by a New York City court in 1947) has regained its popularity.

rhubarb and straw


Rhubarb mix


Oat topping


Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

6 to 8 servings

For the Filling
3 cups rhubarb, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2  1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or all-purpose flour
Kosher salt

For the Crumble Topping
1  1/4 cups all- purpose flour
1  1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1  1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 /2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F.

For the Filling
Place the rhubarb and the strawberries in a large mixing bowl. Add the granulated sugar, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, the nutmeg, ginger, tapioca, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and gently toss to combine. Spoon the filling into a 9-inch round, 2-inch deep pie dish.

For the Crumble Topping

In a medium-size mixing bowl whisk together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Add the butter, and working with your fingers, a fork, or pastry blender, combine the mixture until the crumbs are pea sized.

Sprinkle the topping evenly, but thickly, over the fruit filling.

Place the pie dish on a baking sheet or sheet of foil (to catch any spills) on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the top is nicely browned, about 1 hour. To insure even baking rotate the baking dish halfway through. If the top begins to get too brown, cover it with a sheet of foil. Serve warm.

Micaela’s Nirvana Bars

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Our kids all love a good meal—they all do really walk in the door and ask, “What smells so good?” And as they’ve gotten older they’ve started to emulate us and take photos of things they’ve cooked or great meals they’ve had––they send them to us and we continue to connect over sustenance even when they are far away—or just in Brooklyn.

So, when we started to write the cookbook they were so sweet and a bunch of them asked if they could contribute one of their favorite dessert recipes. We loved this idea so much that we asked each of them to make a contribution and the results were all amazing.

These Nirvana Bars are from Lori’s youngest, Micaela (aka Mica). This is what Mica had to say about her recipe:

“My mom always made these bars as a teenager, so I decided to give them a try and make a batch for my friends in my homeroom. After a couple of tries I made my own edits to the recipe and brought them into class the next day. Following the consumption of the first couple, word of the bars quickly spread and soon I was being swarmed by hungry teenagers attracted to the smell of chocolate, nuts, coconut, and all the rest of the chewy, crunchy deliciousness. Within five minutes the container was empty and I was already taking orders from people for more the next day. Now, these Nirvana bars have become a favorite middle of the night treat for friends that sleep over and have a tendency to sneak into the kitchen.”



Makes 3 dozen 1-1 1/2 inch bars
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
9 full graham cracker sheets, crushed into coarse crumbs
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup chopped raw walnuts or pecans
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded or flaked coconut
½ of a 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, graham cracker crumbs, and salt; stir to mix well. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the baking pan. Layer on the chopped nuts, then the semisweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and bittersweet chocolate chips. Sprinkle the coconut evenly on top. Lastly, drizzle on the condensed milk, covering everything with a thin layer.

Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut into 1½-inch bars. Store in an airtight container.

Raspberry Pudding Cake

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Raspberries are my favorite berry and the origin of that love dates back to a bright summery day spent picking raspberries at a Pick Your Own farm in Connecticut. I got there early and spent hours walking through the rows of bushes loaded with ripe fruit. By afternoon–my face a bit stained with berry juice–I had pints and pints to take home and turn into luscious pies and jam.

Though puddings have always struck me as great for the nursery, I find them a tad boring. But our pudding cake is full of flavor, light and airy, and definitely for grown ups. And this cake is such a dream to make that even a novice will have luck.   It’s also a touch magical. You pour the berry sauce on top of the batter and when you remove the cake from the oven you’re surprised and delighted to discover that the sauce has dispersed throughout. We like to serve the pudding in individual footed stem glasses, topped with a scoop of our favorite ice cream.


6 servings
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing the pan
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups fresh raspberries
½ cup raspberry jam
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together ¼ cup of the sugar, ¼ cup of water, the lemon juice, and cornstarch and bring to a simmer. Add the raspberries and the raspberry jam and cook, stirring, for an additional 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and the remaining ½ cup of sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Spread the batter into the baking pan and top with the raspberry sauce.

Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake just comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and serve.