Monday, August 8, 2011

back in the saddle

There comes a time when you’ve just gotta get back up on the horse.  Staring up into its nostrils won’t do you any good, you need to feel the reins in your hand, find your balance, get some momentum going again.  It’s been ten months or so since I’ve written in here, and even my attempts last fall were forced.  The longer I was away, the more I built up to say, the more recipes I wanted to share, experiences I wanted to document, and the more impossible it became to begin. 

There are probably fifty excuses I could scribe as to why I didn’t just sit down and do it, but I’m bored just thinking about it, so I won’t drag you through the gory details.  Let’s just say, last year was rough.  And yet…  Have you ever noticed that the most difficult times, are often the richest?  The times we make the biggest leaps, the greatest gains?  In the easy times, when spirit is in homeostasis, we don’t search; we’re not available to transformation like we are when we feel utterly out of sorts.  This past year was one of riding out the angst, staying open to the shift I knew was at hand.

And now I’m walking the line between two very distinct parts of myself, between my past and my future.  This is an uncomfortable place, but it’s active, alive, and utterly breathtaking.  Every step feels filled with meaning and possibility, and the adrenaline coursing through my body makes me want to run a lap every other hour. 

I spent two weeks in Paso Robles alone in July, trying to get a sense of what my next step ought to be.  It was a blessed time with visits from all manner of wildlife…

 …and adventures that took me deep into the nooks and crannys of the area, convincing me ever more of the unsettling truth that I want to be there; and not just for vacation. 

There is more, but in the spirit of getting something written and posted, (and not boring you with a 150-page memoir) let me just say, things are evolving at a rapid pace over here.  Change is in the air, and I’m working on staying grounded enough to allow the evolution to happen as it should.  Which is an appropriately awkward segue way into the recipe I want to share with you…

I made this for my family last weekend.  I had returned from my solo adventure with a bunch of rhubarb from the garden where I was staying.  I’d never eaten rhubarb, let alone cooked with it, and yet in my mind it is so quintessentially linked to American summer dishes; it was time.  This is the evolution of a few different recipes I’ve happened upon over the years, it’s oldest roots dating back to 1992, to Eleanor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church.  I was in the City Dwellers program, living with six other people doing urban ministry, and she was a supporter, and recent cafe entrepreneur.  When there was food left at the end of the day, she’d send it our way, which we greatly appreciated, being twenty-somethings with few resources for eating good food.  My favorite of her treats was the apple crisp, and I begged for the recipe before my time there was through; I’ve been making it ever since, with the ratios now committed to memory. 

I combined Eleanor’s Apple Crisp recipe with one that Heidi Swanson recently posted for a Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble, and another that Molly Wizenburg posted last year for Roasted Rhubarb.  I was skeptical of rhubarb, as I hear very mixed reviews, but…it’s a revelation!  It’s tartness, bubbling with all that strawberry, is nothing short of divine.  Luscious, really.  This might be my favorite crisp ever, and I highly recommend you go, find rhubarb, and make this.  Serve it with vanilla ice cream, or lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream.  Or plain yogurt for breakfast.  Or just eat it cold, from the pan, while standing in front of the refrigerator, with a spoon.      

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup All-Purpose Flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup oats
1 tsp. salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
½ cup cold butter cut into pieces (1 stick)
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped and cooled

9 oz. (or more!) rhubarb sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 lb. strawberries sliced
¼ cup crisp white wine
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. white flour
½ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To make the topping, mix flour, brown sugar, oats, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, fork, or your hands, until the butter is crumbled into the dry mixture in pea-sized pieces.  Add the pecans and put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

In another bowl mix the strawberries and rhubarb together.  Toss the sugar in with the fruit and let it sit for a few minutes.  Measure the wine into a measuring cup and add the vanilla to it.  Toss the wine mixture with the fruit.  Sprinkle the flour over the fruit, and toss to combine. 

Place the fruit mixture in a 9x9 baking dish, or other equivalent sized gratin dish.  Take the topping out of the freezer and crumble over the fruit.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the fruit is gorgeous and bubbling through the topping.  Let cool a few minutes and enjoy in any manner that pleases you.  It can be made several hours ahead and reheated just before serving.  To reheat, place in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.