I married well in at least one important sense: my husband willingly eats anything I cook. That being said, he’s not simply a walking mouth without a sense of culinary preference; so I guess it’s better to describe him as a both adventurous and thankful eater: he understands the effort I put into what we eat, and appreciates it. He also rarely turns up his nose at a specific ingredient, and never picks random pieces of food from his plate.
With just a couple of exceptions. I’ve covered before my attempt and subsequent failure at trying to win him over to the wonderful world of beets. And then there’s the infamous story involving cabbage, apples, and many tears shed at his family’s dinner table sometime in the early 1980s. But I recently discovered that yet another food item exists as a potential fodder at his therapist’s office: rhubarb. When I brought home a pound from the farmer’s market last Saturday, he looked at it and made a face usually reserved for those moments when he’s misjudged his “full moment” at dinner, and is feeling the consequences while simultaneously putting away the leftovers.
“What?” I asked. “It’s rhubarb,” as if that look of mild disgust came simply from his not knowing what it was.
“I know,” he replied, still looking at it as if it were roadkill I’d decided to cook up. “My mom used to make a pie.”
And without giving me any more details involving dramatic stands at his childhood table, he left it at that. I didn’t ask questions, but did inform him that I’d be using the rhubarb, along with strawberries, to make something he was sure to like. After all, he didn’t marry his momma, and I wasn’t making a pie.
I was making a cobbler.
Friends, I wouldn’t be writing this story if the ending were anything other than my spouse showering praises on me for changing his mind about rhubarb. Hey, it’s all in a day’s work.
Of course, once again, I didn’t work any magic: a cobbler is really quite simple — just cooked fruit topped with biscuits. A strawberry-rhubarb variety is especially quick, since there’s no peeling of pesky summer fruit (read: peaches). I based my recipe on one in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook — just changing the quantities to make a smaller portion and adding whole wheat flour to the biscuits (this adds texture and a heartier flavor to an already rustic dessert). Top it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and you, too, can convince even the staunchest rhubarb nay-sayers that they’ve been missing out.
- 3 cups rhubarb, chopped
- 3 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp minute tapioca, cornstarch, or flour (tapioca works best)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
- 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable shortening (I like Spectrum Organic)
- appx. 2/3 cup buttermilk, as needed
- 1 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling
Preaheat oven to 350º, and place rack in middle position.
Toss fruit with lemon juice, orange zest, sugar, and tapioca. Pour into an 8″x 8″ glass baking dish. Place fruit in oven, and cook for 20 minutes. While fruit is cooking, prepare your biscuit dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture looks like large crumbs. (Alternatively, mix the dry ingredients together in a food processor, add the butter and shortening, and process for five to ten 1-second pulses until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Remove to a bowl before proceeding).
Gradually add the buttermilk, mixing with a rubber spatula. Add only enough so the mixture just holds together (you might not use it all). Lightly press the dough together into a rough ball. Avoid overworking the dough — it should look messy, but hold together.
When the fruit has cooked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven. Pull off clumps of dough about the size of a large golf ball, and dot over the surface (I ended up with 9 rough clumps, and didn’t quite use all the dough). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar.
Increase oven temperature to 425º. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until dough is browned and fruit is bubbly. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.