rhubarb is mysterious.

it’s dark. poison.

it’s vibrantly red, green, and beautiful–like rods of blown glass the variegated colors of rubies. beautiful.

it’s delicious–and it’s in season.

having not grown up in a baking household–i’m not really sure what a good rhubarb pie is supposed to taste like. but upon accepting an invitation from a good friend of mine, i wanted to bring a hand-made dessert with fresh, whole ingredients and delicious local produce. and while my pie experience tends mostly towards apple–guess what? it’s not apple season. which leads me to rhubarb. it’s a little daunting, because i happen to know that only the stalk is edible. the rest, beyond inedible, is poisonous–and in fact, i happen to know someone who, after eating rhubarb leaves, was admitted to the emergency room. so i was a bit intimidated.

sitting on my parent’s couch last weekend i flipped through their copy of Williams-Sonoma The Best of Kitchen Library: Desserts (The Best of the Kitchen Library) seeking inspiration. when i reached the rhubarb-crumble pie, i mused about rhubarb aloud. that’s when my mom told me a friend of hers had offered her 3 lbs of rhubarb growing in her garden. simple providence?

together with the kerrygold irish butter, and locally milled bulk flour i’d previously found, i added homemade vanilla extract (instead of the cardamom called for) from my mom’s good friend. the rhubarb came in a reusable grocery sack, covered in dirt–and in colors varying from emerald green, pink–to glossy ruby red. for my friend whose favorite color is hot pink, it was a no-brainier.

so i ventured into the culinary unknown–trying to bake something i’ve never tasted because i thought it would be pretty. and it was! and it was good too. and it was local, seasonal, and fun to make. and after a tasting by someone who had eaten rhubarb before–it was pronounced edible before i took it dinner partying with me.

i doubled the recipe and served with whipped cream–just a little more elegant than ice cream. plus the ice cream can make the rhubarb taste more tart than it is.

Pie Crust

Single crust: 1.5 cups flour | .5 teaspoon salt | .5 cup vegetable shortening | 3-4 tablespoons cold water

Double crust: 2.25 cups flour | .75 teaspoon salt | .75 cup shortening | 6-7 tablespoons cold water

Hand Method: Combine flour and slat in a bowl and toss together. Add the shortening. With your fingertips, 2 knives, or a pastry blender, blend together working quickly until you have a mixture of tiny flakes about the size of course bread crumbs. Sprinkle on the water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring gently with a fork after each addition. Add just enough water to form a rough mass. With floured hands pat the dough into smooth disks. The dough is now ready to use. It does not need to be chilled, but it may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Rhubarb Crisp Pie:
Filling:1.5 lb rhubarb stalks | .25 cup water | 3 tablespoons all purpose flour | .75 cup sugar

Topping: .25 cup unsalted room temperature butter | .5 cup sugar | .5 cup all purpose flour | .5 cup old fashioned oats | .5 teaspoon cardamom (but I used vanilla instead)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line pie dish with crust. Set aside. Trim rhubarb and cut into 1 inch pieces (about 5 cups). Place the rhubarb in a saucepan with the water. In a small bowl stir together the flour and sugar, and add them to the rhubarb. Bring to a biol, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered until barely tender (about five mins). Do not cook until mushy. Set aside.

To make topping, combine butter, sugar, flour, oats, and cardamom in a bowl. With your fingers or pastry blender, blend together the ingredients until the mixture resembles course crumbles. Spread the rhubarb in the pie shell & sprinkle on the topping.

Bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is browned, about 40 mins. Makes 1 9″ pie for 8 people.