Farmers markets are a sign of springtime, one of my favorite things about the weather getting warmer and not to mention also a wonderful alternative to making a trip the grocery store—especially right now.
As I’m sure you’ve also experienced, grocery stores and super markets have been extra chaotic. Limited choices are available of produce, meats, dairy and other essentials unless you go to the store at specific times or on specific days. Masks, bandannas or some other kind of facial covering are required to enter the store—speaking for New Jersey, which mandated this at least three weeks ago, but now also Pennsylvania within the last week or two. And sometimes you need to wait your turn to enter the store because of restrictions put in place on the number of people allowed in at once, otherwise choose to come back at another time.
Visiting a farmers market, by contrast, is a nice break from making a now-normal grocery store visit, so this weekend Dave and I stopped at a farmers market we saw in a local strip mall parking lot. It was a very different experience when compared to visiting open air markets in seasons past .
For starters, social distancing measures were in place, so everyone was wearing masks, a few people were wearing gloves, and tables with the products were each spaced about 6 feet apart from one another. This market also wasn’t allowing people to browse the produce, vegetables and eggs. That was the one, big bummer about the experience—I typically love to get out of the car, browse and pick my own stuff—but given our current situation, it was understandable, and actually ended up being super convenient.
A volunteer came over to our car to greet us and hand us a piece of paper that had the inventory on it. We put in our order by checking off the items that we wanted, then handed the paper back to the person who took it over to the various tables that were set up and picked out our fruits and vegetables. She delivered the produce back to our car, took our payment, and we were on our way.
Browsing over the paper list, I was delighted to see a mix of local produce, like lettuces and greens (for now… but more will come as the season goes on), as well as extra things like strawberries and mangoes, which are purchased elsewhere and resold, given that we typically don’t see local strawberries until later in May or early June and, well, mangoes don’t necessarily thrive in New Jersey. I left the mangoes this time for someone else, but the strawberries caught my eye along with a classic pairing of theirs: rhubarb.
Rhubarb is a perennial plant that comes to season in April, either greenhouse-grown or field-grown; the former is generally available around the beginning of spring and the latter is available towards the end of spring and into the summer where we live.
Using my newly-procured strawberries and rhubarb, I set out to make a reduced sugar crisp also turned out gluten free through the use of almond flour (also known as almond meal) instead of all purpose flour.
I’ve become hyper-aware of recipes that dump cups of sugar into them, with obvious exceptions like canning—where sugar is needed to help preserve color, flavor, texture, and quality of the jam, pickle or other item being preserved—as well as certain baked goods, like cakes, that require sugar to develop a proper crumb. But for pies, crisps and crumbles: why ruin the flavor of lovely, fresh fruit with excessive sugar? It’s crazy.
Time for some strawberry-rhubarb goodness—that is, if you’re into that classic, sweet-tart pairing, and I am. If you’re not, though, I’d enocurage you to give it another try.
I like the addition of a little orange, and in the case of the one picturered here, I also added some blackberries only because I had a few left in a container and said “why not?” Serve this crisp with lightly-sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a lovely, springtime treat.
Gluten free, reduced sugar spring dessert made with fresh fruit and a hint of orange. Serve with lightly-sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
- 1 pound rhubarb (about 4 large stalks)
- 1 pound strawberries (one large plastic quart container or two small pints)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1/4 tsp orange extract (substitute: orange juice)
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, plus 1 tablespoon set aside
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×9 baking dish with butter and set aside.
To make the fruit filling, thinly slice the rhubarb stalks and add to a large bowl. Hull the strawberries, slice, and add to bowl.
Add orange extract, orange zest, cornstarch and white sugar to fruit. Mix until combined and let sit, about 5 minutes.
In a stand mixer, add oats, almond meal, cinnamon, salt, and butter. Mix until combined; it will look like the consistency of cookie dough.
Add the fruit to the baking dish, then use your hands or a small spoon to scoop out small chunks of the crumble mixture and add to the top of the fruit. Once all of the crumble mixture is added, sprinkle with reserved 1 tbsp brown sugar.
Bake for about 25-35 minutes or until fruit is bubbling. Increase oven to 375ºF and bake another 10 minutes to crisp up the topping.