Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Best of the season

Okanagan strawberries aren't ready for picking, but imports will work well in these tasty desserts

I’m hoping that everyone enjoyed the long weekend as much as I did. We spent our time at the lake with family and  friends enjoying campfires, s’mores, fishing off the wall, paddle boarding, playing with our three-year-old granddaughter, and eating wonderful foods. My niece treated us all to a delicious warm rhubarb crisp with some apple included in the mix: delicious with ice cream!

Today I’m  offering a seasonal recipe for the same, but a rhubarb/ strawberry mix. The stores are full of imported strawberries right now trying to get a jump on the local market which, from looking at my crop, won’t be ready for another three to four weeks. These imported berries are perfect for the crisp recipe. The soup recipe is also very seasonal and can be enjoyed  hot or chilled.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 lb. fresh asparagus spears

1 medium onion, diced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

24 ounces low sodium chicken broth (quantity to taste) or 24 ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth (quantity to taste) or 24 ounces chicken broth (quantity to taste)

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

1 celery rib, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or fresh thyme)

Fresh ground white pepper

8 ounces cream (You may want to use evaporated skim milk, half n’half, or milk to cut more fat)

Salt or salt substitute

Soak and rinse asparagus. Remove top 1 inch of each spear, discard tough lower part, and dice and reserve middle portion of stalks.

In a 3-quart saucepan, over medium heat, sauté onion in butter for 3 to 5 minutes or until translucent. Add chicken stock, asparagus tips and stems, potato, celery, thyme, and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Remove from heat and let cool. Remove asparagus tips and set aside. Place half of the soup at a time in a blender container.  Cover and blend at high speed for 20 to 30 seconds or until very smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and return blended soup to saucepan. Add reserved asparagus tips and cream (or half and half, or milk) and heat thoroughly, or refrigerate to be served cold.

Be sure to adjust the seasoning after you add the cream (or half& half, or milk), especially if you plan to serve it cold.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp

4 cups fresh rhubarb, 1-inch diced (4 to 5 stalks)

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, if large

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal,

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the fruit, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the orange zest together in a large bowl.

In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then mix it into the fruit. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-11-inch baking dish.

For the topping, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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