The answer to that question is my husband, Steve. He eats a bowl of strawberries and cream while we all dive into the first luscious pie of the season. Unfortunately, in upstate New York when rhubarb pops up, strawberries are still a month or so behind so we have to purchase our berries to make this perennial favorite, but make it we do. But, we also freeze a good amount of rhubarb to have on hand when local berries come in.
When I was a kid, asparagus and rhubarb both grew wild alongside the irrigation ditches that ran throughout the tiny towns of southeastern Colorado. My mom and aunt made good use of them – both in our daily meals and for canning – pickled asparagus was a favorite and strawberry-rhubarb jam was on the table all year long for toast and topping for pancakes and waffles. But, more than anything, I loved my Aunt Frances’ and mom’s strawberry-rhubarb pies, especially topped with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
You can also use the same combination to make a cobbler. And, I also use just plain rhubarb to make what I call sweet pizza – it really is nothing more than pastry dough rolled out quite thin and placed on a pizza stone or pan with a nice rolled edge. I slice the rhubarb (or whatever fruit I am using) paper-thin on a mandoline, season it with sugar and orange zest, add a little flour to hold it all together, and then cover the pastry with a thin layer of the fruit. Bake it at 375ºF for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly and lightly colored.
I’ve not given a recipe for pastry – you probably have your own favorite. If not, let me know and I’ll add one. If you are in a hurry and don’t mind cheating, you can buy those refrigerated Pillsbury pastry rounds – nobody will know that you didn’t do it all yourself.
Now, the pie. The following recipe is enough to fill a 9-inch two-crust pie. I usually make a lattice top, but a plain top is fine also.
2½ cups cubed rhubarb
2½ cups hulled, sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar or more to taste
¼ cup tapioca
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pastry for one 9-inch double crust pie, rolled out to two 10-inch or so circles
Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. When well-blended, toss in the butter.
Fit the bottom pastry circle into the pie pan. Mound the rhubarb mixture into the pan and cover either with a plain pastry circle or cut the pastry circle into strips and make a lattice topping.
Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes and then at 375ºF for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minute before cutting.