Sweet Spring

Strawberries and rhubarb are back. And for dessert fans, that's good news.

April 21, 1999|By BEV BENNETT | BEV BENNETT,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Forget April showers. If you're a dessert lover, you're looking forward to the reign of April strawberries and rhubarb.

These dazzling, tart-sweet treats are your reward for getting through the winter months. And whether you love cooking rhubarb or eating strawberries as a snack, you'll have plenty of opportunities.

But first, a word of caution: If you're used to nibbling on a few berries on your way home from the market, practice a little restraint. Strawberries, like most fresh fruit, may harbor harmful bacteria. However, if you're like me and don't want to drown out the delicate taste of a strawberry, you may resist washing the fruit.

The best solution is to refrigerate strawberries, unwashed. Then, just before eating or cooking, hull the strawberries. Place the berries in a colander, hold under cold running water for a few minutes and make sure each berry gets a thorough shower. Gently pat dry, and don't wash more berries than you'll use immediately.

Rhubarb doesn't present the same problems. Raw rhubarb is too sour to be palatable. Just make sure you buy firm and blemish-free stalks. Sometimes very thick stalks are woody inside. You may be better off choosing a medium thickness.

When you've had your fill of fresh strawberries, combine the berries with rhubarb in a scrumptious cobbler with a sweet biscuit topping. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a real treat.

If you prefer pure rhubarb flavor, you can pucker up to Rhubarb Crumble with bits of candied ginger and dried cranberries.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

Serves 2 to 3

FILLING:

1 cup sliced rhubarb, 1 large stalk

2 cups sliced strawberries

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

TOPPING:

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons sour cream or reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup half-and-half or milk

vanilla ice cream, optional

To prepare filling, in bowl, stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour and lemon juice. Spoon into 2-quart, shallow, oven-proof baking dish or 8-inch deep-dish pie pan.

To prepare topping, in bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add sour cream and half-and-half, and quickly stir into flour mixture to create a wet topping. Do not over-stir or beat.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls over filling to create biscuit-like mounds. Topping should not completely cover filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is golden. Remove from oven. Let stand 10 minutes, then spoon into bowls and top with ice cream.

Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 2 to 3

2 cups sliced rhubarb (2 large stalks)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Toss rhubarb with sugar and spoon into 1-quart oven-proof baking dish. Stir in ginger and cranberries.

In second bowl, stir together flour, oats and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling. Remove from oven. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pub Date: 04/21/99

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