I will admit from the start that this post is ill timed. This weekend marks the end of summer for my friends and family back in the US. Most people saw the last of this season’s rhubarb, the harbinger of summer produce, a few weeks ago. My lone rhubarb encounter of the season was back in late June/early July, when I made this life-altering, saffron strawberry rhubarb crisp. There’s a little bit of life-alteration happening whenever I eat something with strawberry and rhubarb. The melding of those two ingredients, the sweet & the tart, is like nothing else. You can’t quite tell where the strawberry ends and the rhubarb begins. The whole is most certainly greater than the sum of its part. So why mess up such as good thing? Who would dare come between this union? Well, I decided to do just that with the addition of saffron, an ingredient I had never used before. It was quite the gamble. I don’t know what would be worse, wasting my precious saffron or the rare (in my region) rhubarb.
Luckily, saffron was a seamless pairing. The saffron is like a VSCO cam filter over the strawberry rhubarb. It’s a silken, transparent sheet, delicately laid across the whole dish. I’ve searched for a good description of the flavor of saffron, but people seem to have a lot trouble pinning it down. People often note that it tastes similar to honey. It does, but that is only a component. The best I can do to describe saffron is honey, floral and slightly metallic. That still misses the mark. As my husband said, “I can taste it, but I can’t describe it.”
Things have already changed quite a bit since I made this saffron strawberry rhubarb crisp. We went on vacation to the US, hence the long absence on the blog. When we returned at the beginning of August, my mind leaped right into fall planning and even further to the cool, cozy holiday months. I suppose this is a psychological means of beating the still relentless heat.
Also, I’ve recently switched to a plant-based, vegan diet. So next time I make saffron strawberry rhubarb, I’ll be swapping out the butter for a plant-based alternative. I absolutely love butter, but all roads, health-wise, seem to lead back to getting meat and dairy out of my diet. If I find any good butter substitutes for this recipe, I’ll be sure to make note of it. Even though I can’t eat this now (and even if I could I wouldn’t find any rhubarb) this recipe was too good not to share! If you’re lucky enough to have some rhubarb, you can bid summer a fine farewell with this recipe. Or, if you’re like most of us, you can bookmark this one for next summer’s crop.
Saffron Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
4 – 5 stalks of rhubarb (1-inch diced)
4 cups strawberries (hulled and halved, quartered if large)
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
1 ½ tsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ tsp saffron
½ whole spelt flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 ¼ cup of old fashioned oats
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the spelt flour, oats, brown sugar, ¼ cup of granulated sugar and salt in a bowl. Melt butter and mix into bowl with dry ingredients and sit aside. Chop rhubarb and strawberries and mix in another bowl. Add the orange zest, sugar, orange juice and cornstarch to the rhubarb and strawberries. Toss gently, until well combined. Empty strawberry rhubarb filling into a 9-by-13 glass or ceramic baking dish. Scatter saffron evenly across the top of filling. Cover evenly with crisp topping. Bake the dish on a cookie sheet, to protect the oven from any spillage, for 35-45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.