Before moving to San Francisco, I lived in Boston with my best friends. My roommates were my family, in almost every sense of the word. But when a handful of twenty-somethings finish scrolling through Tinder and giggling over $5 wine, they don’t give each other a squeeze and an “I love you” before turning in for the night. Since moving in with my San Francisco family, that’s all changed. No matter how the evening is spent – likely without boy-talk or cheap wine – there’s always a big ol’ hug before bed and a real heartfelt “I love you.”
That’s not the only part that’s different. As I mentioned last time, I often feel like I’m the most food-ignorant person in this city. Back in Boston, I knew where to find the best kale and what farm it came from (Siena Farms, duh). I knew where the best sushi was (Avana, hello!). And, most of the time, I was the ruler of the kitchen (Ah, how I miss my cast iron skillet). Here, there are species of kale you couldn’t even dream of, like the Dinosaur variety, in the garden, usurping the front of the house. I don’t know where the best anything is, though I did eat at Ebisu and am forever changed. And I certainly, certainly am not the ruler of the kitchen.
Justine, my Aunt Sydney’s partner, is the kitchen queen. It’s no rare sight to see a potpourri of soaking beans, nuts, and grains scattered across the counters in glass bowls. She makes hummus that puts Sabra to shame. She crafts tahini salad dressing that’s life changing.
She even prepares gourmet puppy chow for Ivy, the mini Labradoodle I’m considering kidnapping.
Sydney, on the other hand, is often so busy being the rabbi of San Francisco that there isn’t much time for cooking. Between births, marriages, deaths, meltdowns, and sermons, it’s amazing that we actually get to see her at all! Busy as she may be, she is still a Jewish mother, which means she will always make feeding her kids her #1 priority.
So, when Eli (son #1) came back from Camp Tawonga for the weekend, she obviously needed to make up for lost time.
On top of that, Gabe (son #2), was getting ready to join Eli at camp. On top of that, Mateo (Justine’s son) was on his way back from Mexico. – Try to keep up. – As the icing on the cake (I mean crumble), I hadn’t seen Syd in a week since she and Justine had been in Mendocino setting up their new second home, The Albion Schoolhouse.
In other words, it was time to get cooking. Sydney took me to our local produce market, where we debated over which fruit looked best.
We settled on these strawberries you could smell from a mile away and some hefty shoots of rhubarb, to boot. Now, as far as crumbles go, I like to stick to what I know. Why mess with a good thing?
Here’s why: because rhubarb is a delicious anomaly. How it transforms from a bitter, hard, unpalatable thing into a tender, slightly sour, rich miracle is beyond me. Honestly, I’ve always been a little afraid of the stuff for that reason. But thank Yahweh for Rabbi Sydney Mintz because a new door has been opened for me. Sadly, that door won’t be open for long, since rhubarb is in season for only a few more weeks.
This Almond Crunch & Summer Fruit Crumble is delightfully mild in sweetness. The baked yumminess on top is nutty and oaty, which gives each bite a satisfying crunch and earthy flavor.
It almost tastes healthy, though I assure you it’s not. Syd claims we added too much butter, but I feel passionately that every part of this crumble is perfect. The fruit gets ultra tender and becomes infused with a subtle citrus flavor thanks to the orange juice. The crumbly top is hearty and wholesome. It’s a refreshing dessert (or breakfast!) for a warm summer night* and obviously deserves to be paired with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
*Or a freezing cold summer night, which has been my experience in the foggy Bay Area.
8 cups rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces (approx. 8 large stalks)
6 cups strawberries, quartered
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw almonds
2 cups oats
½ cup almond meal
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, orange juice, and one cup of sugar in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large food processor, pulse almonds until chunky. Set aside.
4. Add remaining cup of sugar, salt, oats, and almond meal in the food processor. Blend until just combined. Pour in melted butter and blend until mixture is wet and crumbly. Add almonds back in and pulse just a few more times.
5. Lay fruit out in one or two deep pans. We used one 13” x 13” dish. Cover fruit with crumble mixture, making sure to leave no spot uncovered.
6. Bake for one hour, or until crumble top is firm and slightly browned.