Rhubarb Crumble

Story Recipe

Here's a tip for a longer life - never drive with Frank. The other day, in a moment of insufficient caution, I hopped in his 1971 Dodge Van to the farmers' market. There was a rumor that we could get a white truffle if we got there before the crowds. Chef shove us out the door, dreaming of creamy risottos and truffled trout. His enthusiasm overwhelmed my sense of self-preservation until we were already on the road.

The danger of driving with Frank is not that he drives too fast or recklessly. In fact his skill at maneuvering all sorts of transport is only matched by his mechanical inventiveness in keeping his ancient van running. His latest clever idea was a rubber tube with a funnel in the end that was suspended near the passenger seat. The passenger's job is to use this funnel to add oil to the engine to compensate for the loose rings and leaky gaskets.

I was in the middle of pouring a quart of 10W30 when I was thrown against the door. Frank was howling gleefully as he whipped the vehicle around and onto the opposite sidewalk. After hitting the door, I was slammed into the windshield when the van came to a sudden halt. A lump rose on my forehead and a thick warm liquid soaked into my shirt.

"What the hell, Frank?" I asked, making sure that the liquid was more motor oil than blood.

"Check it out, Man!" Frank said, pointing to a sidewalk planter shaded with huge green leaves. "The rhubarb is up!"

Nothing makes Frank happier than finding food in the wild. He hunts clams like he is digging for buried treasure. A stream full of crayfish is a gumbo dream. New buds on a maple tree means syrup. Apparently rhubarb means that summer is coming and failure to collect the dark red stalks is a sin against Euell Gibbons.

I tended my wounds while Frank cut a few stalks. A nasty looking bruise on my hip made walking the three miles back the stone soup kitchen impossible, so I pulled the seatbelt tighter and hoped that Frank would be satisfied with his haul and not spot the camus bulbs coming up on route 202.

"There are artichokes in there too! We have to come back this winter," Frank said when he got back in the van. "Top off the oil, man. I've got to get these back to Cook."

I almost reminded him that we were on a truffle mission, but getting back on course would require another U-turn and I was not sure my body could take that.

Cook was livid we Frank burst into the kitchen without any truffles. He furiously slammed a pot of boiling pasta water into the sink and would have through his risotto pan at Frank's head if Jennifer hadn't convinced him to take his rant outside. Ten minutes later he came back with a cannabis smile on his face, but he had no forgiveness for Frank. He collected his knives and stomped off to his room, leaving the kitchen to Frank and the rhubarb.

Frank never pays attention to people who are angry at him. He peeled the rhubarb stalks and cut them into half inch pieces. We all winced when he popped one of the pieces into his mouth. Raw Rhubarb has an astringent sour taste that would make a normal human pucker up in pain. Frank just smiled and asked if anyone knew where the cinnamon was.

He tossed the rhubarb, a bit of water and some sugar into a sauce pan and put it on the stove. While that simmered, he mixed raw oatmeal, flour, sugar and butter together until the mixture turned into a crumbly dough. Some people describe the texture as like sand, but I've played with sand and I don't see the similarity. The crumble is much softer and a little bit sticky. Frank added a tablespoon of Buerre Vert to the crumble and set it aside.

He turned the oven to 320 degrees and waited for the rhubarb mixture to cook down. Frank likes his rhubarb cooked into a smother goo. You might prefer to take it off the stove while there are still some noticeable chunks. You might also try tossing in a few strawberries. Another variation is to let the rhubarb cool a bit and add chunks of cream cheese.

Frank poured the goo into ramekins and covered it with the crumble. This went into the oven for 20 minutes until the crumble cooked through. At the end, he cranked up the broiler to brown the tops. Keep this step short so that you don't vaporize the THC. He guarded the ramekins while they cooled by reminding us about the last time we ate something right out of the oven. Leslie still has a burn on her thigh where a bit of hot cheese slid off a stuffed mushroom she snitched off the cooling rack.

Cook stubbornly stayed in his room while the rest of us enjoyed Frank's found treat. I'm not sure it if was worth a lump on the head, bruised hip and a motor oil soaked shirt, but it sure was tasty. While I scooped the last bits of sweetness from the dish, the Buerre Vert kicked in and let me realize that a few little bumps and bruises were not going to ruin this summer.


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