Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

One thing about summer is that no matter what, there will be bugs.
Mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, spiders, flies, June bugs...
We recently had some Japanese beetles move in, and they seem to really enjoy fruit trees, as well as magnolias, and almonds. Over time I think they'll eat just about everything.
However, they seem to have a penchant for cherry trees, which is too bad because I like them too.
Japanese beetles are very pretty bugs, and look almost like jewels- but they do a lot of damage.

Although I have recently honed my beetle fighting skills, I don't think "beetle hunter" could ever become a lifetime occupation for me. I don't think I have the tenacity for the full-time endeavor, and I can't say I really enjoy having bugs flying at me. Japanese beetles seem to be a bit clumsy and almost like they might be too bulky to support themselves in flight- like a June bug.
I remember when I went to camp (maybe I was 10 years old), and my bunk happened to be on the top (not by choice) and in the center of the room. I think I might have been the last in the cabin to arrive. Not horrible, or so I thought at first.

Well, the center of the room happens to have an overhead light, and the bunk was right under the light. June bugs are attracted to light and I found myself fighting them from around and on my face and pillow more than once.
They don't do too well with general avoidance! This was not the all-time favorite experience.
And so, just another reason bugs aren't always fun...

Anyway, to exterminate the Japanese beetles I had to get a jar with some rubbing alcohol, find the intruders, and drop them into the alcohol. I will say I have a very difficult time just picking beetles off trees. Upon being touched they surprise me, usually by flying in my face or on my arm. I'm not fond of this practice. They're also big enough that if you are close enough to touch or inspect them in any way, you are able to see details quite clearly. I know my imagination was working because they are now reminiscent of Goliath beetles, which I have no intention of having anything to do with.

But, I did find that they do not tend to immediately fly horizontally or up when they have been disturbed and feel the need to leave the tree. They seem to do a slight dive-bomb... and if you are holding the jar at a good angle under a leaf and shake the leaf or use the lip of the jar to dislodge the beetle, they will often fly right into the trap. Great news, no bug-touching necessary!
However, it was not until day three that I realized I could use the top from the jar to assist the bugs in making their way into the jar.
Yes... brilliant.

Just a tip for anyone else who might have a problem with these beetles...

Another thing (other than bugs) that is usually prolific in the summer is fresh fruit. It's much more pleasant, too. A great way to use fresh fruit is in a crisp.

Crisps are much faster and easier to throw together than pies (no crust making or rolling necessary), and I guess in some ways healthier because of the oats normally added to them.
In fact, they can be EXTREMELY healthy with fruit, oats, and nuts. In fact, they're practically NOT dessert. It could be breakfast, right?

So easy, and so good. They don't take too much time, and people probably have most of these ingredients around anyway.

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman of the New York Times

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp
Serves 6 to 8

6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (plus more for greasing pan)
2 1/2 lb. rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. strawberries, cleaned, stemmed, and cut in quarters
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 T orange juice
1 t grated orange zest
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t salt
2/3 c rolled oats
1/2 c pecans, chopped OR 1/2 c sliced almonds, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan or gratin dish with a little butter. Toss rhubarb with granulated sugar, orange zest and juice, and spread in baking dish.
Put 6 T butter in a food processor along with brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse for 20-30 seconds, until mixture looks like small peas and is just beginning to clump together. Add oats and pecans and pulse a few times to combine. (ALTERNATIVELY, you could do this by hand, with a pasty cutter, or two knives)
Crumble the topping over the rhubarb. Bake until golden and beginning to brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

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