Not only is it asparagus season in Michigan, it is also rhubarb season. Did you know that, although it is most typically used in pies and bars and other sweet dishes, rhubarb is actually a vegetable? I have lots of positive rhubarb associations. My grandmother used to make a rhubarb soup and served it over rice pudding (riisipuuro). After raspberry, my Dad’s favorite pie was strawberry rhubarb. And, as a child, I remember picking a stalk of rhubarb and eating it with salt. In Finland, tender sticks of rhubarb dipped in sugar, are a common and affordable sweet treat for children. Rhubarb is also used to make sima, a Finnish wine. Another interesting factoid…in the UK, the first rhubarb of the season is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds where all other light is excluded, a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk. Rhubarb varies in color from dark red, to pink, to light green. I have always been told that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, although in all of my years of watching true murder shows on tv, I have yet to learn of anyone meeting their demise by being fed rhubarb leaves.
It is not yet strawberry season here in Michigan, but these bars would undoubtedly be even better with sweet Michigan berries.
2 cups of diced rhubarb
2 cups of diced strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 T corn starch
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups old fashion oats
1 cup brown sugar
12 T unsalted butter melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Once you have diced and measured 2 cups each of rhubarb and strawberries combine them, along with the lemon juice, in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the fruit is tender, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the fruits (and vegetables) are cooking, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Once the rhubarb is tender, stir in the sugar and cornstarch and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool down while you prepare the base and topping.
Preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl measure out the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.
Add the melted butter and vanilla. Use a wooden spoon or a hand mixer on low speed to combine all the ingredients.
Set aside 1 1/2 cups for the topping and press the remaining oat and flour mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment.
Spread the strawberry rhubarb mixture over the base.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the flour and oat mixture over the filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Once they’ve cooled, cut and enjoy just as is or with a dollop of whipping cream or ice cream. You get both the sweet and tart flavors in these bars.
NOTE: I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make these using a combination of raspberries and rhubarb or rhubarb on its own. If you use rhubarb without the berries taste test after cooking and adding sugar. Add additional sugar if necessary.
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