Saturday, June 5, 2010
I think you've heard me talk about my sister here before. She sometimes comments as MisterJary--an inside joke that would only be pointless and even more exclusionary to explain--the way inside jokes always are. She's older than me by four years, and by some great stroke of luck, we have always been good friends. That's not a given, you know. Plenty of siblings just tolerate each other, or worse.
We're different in plenty of ways--she's much more educated than me (the girl has a Ph.D. from Brown), and she married youngish (27--compared to me getting hitched at 31). She has two kids (Mischievous Pug and Scrappy) and lives in New Jersey, working as a curator at a museum. Overall, I would say we have pretty different personalities. But we have a lot in common too, besides DNA and a shared childhood experience. We both swim, we both married southern boys, and we laugh at the same things. If I had to, I would trade all my friends for my one sister. Of course that's absurd; on what occasion would such a sacrifice be required? I sometimes like to envision extreme scenarios, though, just to imagine what I would do, and that's one of them. The point is, she's the best friend.
We talk on the phone every few weeks, marathon sessions until my phone starts beeping that it's about to die. We talk about the usual--work, husbands, kids, dog. But a lot of what we talk about is food.
She's a great cook, and in many ways is more adventurous in the kitchen than me. She'll often casually mention that she's started cooking something that I would never consider--like, Indian food. I go out for Indian food, I don't make it at home. But when you live in Princeton, NJ, your options are a little different than they are in San Francisco. If you want good Indian food, maybe you need to make it yourself.
Recently we've been discussing rhubarb. She mentioned a rhubarb cake that some German neighbors made for her that she had fallen in love with, in part because it wasn't as cloyingly sweet as some rhubarb desserts can be. I was interested in learning more about that. But when she mentioned rhubarb streusel bars with ginger icing, I was done. What a brilliant combination! Plenty of sugar, I was sure, in comparison with the Germans' cake--I mean, streusel AND icing? That's something only an American would come up with. In fact, an American company did come up with it: the recipe is from a Penzeys catalog.
Although the bars have three steps (cookie base, fruit layer, icing), don't let that intimidate you. They are all extremely simple. The result is a perfectly sweet but not too sweet dessert that tastes like a fruit crumble in bar shape. The oats and brown sugar form a great chewy crust, and the rhubarb...well, you know about rhubarb. It's bright, tangy, and delicious. And the color is to die for.
So thanks, Jen, for passing on this great recipe, which has gone straight into my regular repertoire. I love it. I hope my readers like it, too. And I'll talk to you next Sunday.
Rhubarb Streusel Bars with Ginger Icing
1 1/2 c. quick-cooking oats
1 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/2 t. powdered ginger
2 c. sliced rhubarb
3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 t. powdered ginger
3-4 t. orange juice or milk (I used orange juice)
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8-inch square pan with heavy aluminum foil extended over the pan's edges. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Scoop out 1 c. of the mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and ginger. Add the rhubarb and toss to coat. Spread over the hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved crust mixture and press lightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool completely on a wire rack. (This is important to do, otherwise the icing will melt away.)
For the icing, in a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, ginger and enough liquid for a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the bars while still in the pan. Lift the foil from the pan and cut into bars. Serve right away. Store leftovers in fridge or freeze.
Serves 16 (Seriously? Maybe 8 or 9)