When we first bought our home, Paul and I began dreaming and scheming-up ways we would fix up the landscaping around the house. One of the first items on our future "To-Do" list was to plant some rhubarb on the side of our house. Rhubarb plants are not really great-looking or anything, but their roots are super delicious in all kinds of pies, cobblers, and bars. Finding rhubarb in the store has always been a bit of a challenge (and super expensive) so we thought it would be great if we could harvest our own. When we went around to some of the local farms, greenhouses, and garden centers, nobody had any rhubarb plants/seeds for sale. In fact, several vendors actually thought it weird that we even wanted to plant the stuff in our yard: "You know the leaves are poisonous..."
Last year, one of Paul's coworkers mentioned that they had a monstrous rhubarb plant in the backyard of their Chicago home that they were planning to rip out. Paul half-jokingly begged him to give a small portion of the plant to us so that we could grow rhubarb in our backyard. We did not expect him to comply - but within a couple of weeks a small rhubarb plant appeared on Paul's desk. When Paul got home from work, he took Matthew out back and the two of them dug a small hole for the new addition. Matthew was so proud of his newly planted "wooobarb".
This Spring, that little tiny rhubarb plant exploded into a towering monstrosity. Our neighbors probably are looking at it wondering what the heck kind of weird weed is taking over the side of our house. Matthew was thrilled to see how much his plant had grown. Every day, he goes to check on the status of the rhubarb and reports how much it has grown (I think his estimates tend to be a bit generous). Whenever anyone comes to our house (be it the mailman, random guy dropping off an amazon package, Tru Green lawn service trying to get us to buy their services, Jehovah's Witnesses), Matthew asks them: "Would you like to see my woobarb?"
Newly harvested rhubarb is great in so many desserts. A new one that I just tried was for a Strawberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie. A slab pie is basically a pie baked in a sheet pan so you can serve pie for a crowd without having to use multiple pie plates. I had seen a recipe for Apple Slab Pie in an issue of Cook's Country that detailed how to make use store-bought pie dough rolled with crushed animal crackers to beef up the flavor. (Interesting!) I'm all about homemade crusts, but sometimes when you put too much effort into making something, it makes you want to do this:
So, I tried the Cook's Country method for the crusts but used a basic strawberry-rhubarb filling and added a streusel topping instead of another layer of pie dough. We served large, hot pieces of this pie with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was divine. This would be a great recipe to bring to a summer potluck. And, if our rhubarb plant keeps growing the way it has, this is a dessert that I will be making often!
Strawberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie
heavily adapted from Cook's Country
For the crusts:
1 (15 ounce) box Pillsbury pie crusts
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup animal crackers
For the Filling:
3 cups sliced fresh rhubarb
5 cups strawberries, sliced
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch (heaping)
For the Streusel Topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
Adjust oven to rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Unwrap and unroll pie crusts from package. Cover with a towel until ready to roll out. Pulse animal crackers and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor until finely ground. Dust work surface with cracker mixture. Brush half of one pastry disc with water, overlap with second pastry disc, and dust top with more cracker mixture. Roll out dough to 19 by 14 inches and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Crimp the edges and refrigerate until ready to fill.
For the filling, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Toss until combined.
For the streusel topping, pulse the flower, brown sugar, and butter together in a food processor until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs.
To assemble the pie, spread the filling evenly over the pie crust. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is browned and the juices are bubbly. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving. Ice cream is essential.